Leadership - 06.07.2019
Success is Not Final, Failure is Fleeting; This Too Shall Pass
The universe rewards perseverance
Life has a way of humbling you from time to time. Early in my adult life, I was over budget in being humbled. Fortunately, I learned that “failing isn’t falling down, it’s staying down.” I dusted myself off and with a lot of help from friends and family, I got to work.
The universe rewarded me right away.
I met my wife to be when I was at my worst. She was at her best, and still is. Man am I lucky!
Much like the accounting jobs I applied for again and again, my future wife rejected me several times…she prefers “declined” over rejected. Fortunately, I finally convinced her to go on a date and the trajectory of my life changed forever. There was no way I thought meeting her would make such a big impact on me.
Good things happened immediately. I applied for a traveling newspaper auditor position with a small firm. I missed my first interview (where was Waze when you needed it?) and still got the job. There I was, driving around the country in my bad, baby blue Ford Escort with suits hanging in the back seat, and staying in awful hotels to save dollars from my per diem.
As I look back, starting my career as a traveling auditor, on the road all by myself, with my future wife back home, was difficult to say the least. Then add on the fact that most newspapers were not glad to see the auditor. I quickly realized that this is why it’s called WORK.
So I buckled down and got to work. And began to achieve some success. That success, as we all know, is sometimes fleeting. To grow and achieve career success, you need to take on assignments and positions that challenge you. That undoubtedly leads to adversity and “failures.”
These occasional “failures” along the journey try to take you down…remember you only fail if you give in, and stay down.
Early on as a manager I learned fast that I was no longer “responsible’ for executing the work, but accountable for all of the work. I realized this after getting a good dressing down by my first boss. He explained I was now the boss and I needed to act like one…whatever that means.
Then, in my first sales job, I recommended several major changes to strategy…all at the same time. You know where this is going. And while I anticipated declines in sales volume, let’s just say I underestimated by a large margin. Another dressing down, and a valuable lesson about the importance of “underpromise and over deliver.”
And one more…implementing a major press project in the most challenging, highest volume time of the year. When I say “major” I mean mega complicated, first of its kind, press project.
Needless to say, I fell down many times during that project and learned that pride sometimes works against you. Every time I wanted to stay down, I was encouraged by mentors, bosses and colleagues to get up and address the issues. I should have asked for help sooner.
A good journey is made up of these failures and set-backs that allow us to grow and understand ourselves even more. They allow for the bounceback, the rebound, the application of new knowledge and capabilities.
I look back and ask myself what might have gone differently if I didn’t accept the hands helping me get back on my feet.
My missed interview…what would have happened if I didn’t call and ask for another chance?
The dressing down from my boss…what would have happened if I took it as a sign that I wasn’t right for the role, instead of as an opportunity for growth?
Family photo albums…what would have happened if I hadn’t asked my wife out just one last time?
I’m glad I got up each time because I learned my next lesson. If you try one more time, you might find that breakthrough moments are right around the corner.