Failure: a topic that many dislike reading about and more so, a topic that many dislike experiencing. Whether you have previously failed an exam, an interview, or any other situation that you have crossed paths with, you must realize that failure is inevitable. Everyone has failed at some point in their career and everyone is bound to fail at some point in the future. I am no exception. Regardless of however much I have “achieved” to-date in my career, I have failed multiple times in life. Failure has made me the relatively “successful” person I am today. Dealing with failure for the first time is not an easy task, but once failure is overcome and dealt with face-to-face, there is nothing in this world that you should fear, not even failure itself. Read on to find out how I have capitalized on personal failures and how I have turned them into success stories that hopefully you can learn from!
I have previously failed an exam. I have also previously failed in the recruiting process. Some of you might know that I have failed in other ways in addition to what I have previously mentioned. When I share my stories of personal setbacks to students, many gasp in disbelief. Students ask me, “how did you get from there to where you are now?” Simple. I learned from my failures.
I have never failed in the same way twice. I have never regretted my failures. If I were to go back and relive my life over again, I would not take out a single setback in life, as it made me who I am today.
Given that I have ridden the roller-coaster of success and failure multiple times in my life, I want to share with you what I have learned from it and hopefully, you can pick out key themes and messages that will help you see it in a more positive light than before. Why share my disappointments? Because there is much more that you and I can both learn from them. Every success story in my opinion is a direct result of one learning from his/her failures.
Failing is a part of life and it happens to the best of us. Do not be afraid of failing
Do you know of any individual that has never experienced failure? See that light bulb lightning up your room? It was developed after a string of miserable failures. Thomas Edison tried and failed over ten thousand times in refining the light bulb. Does the number “23” remind you of Michael Jordan? Although he is considered one of the greatest NBA players of all time, he has lost over 300 games and has missed over twenty-five game winning shots in his career. Did failure scare them away from achieving their dreams and goals? I will let you answer that question.
I have failed several crucial exams (both in the literal and philosophical sense), yet I always remain upbeat and confident in my abilities and always remain steadfast in achieving my ambitions in life. Why? Because I understand that failure is a part of life and it is inevitable. If you can begin to treat the word “failure” as a synonym rather than an antonym of the word “success” you will begin to realize a gradual spike in your confidence level. You will begin to believe in yourself once again. You will begin to realize that even if you made a mess out of last fall’s recruiting season and did a horrendous job in your interviews, this year is your year of redemption as long as you have learned from where you went wrong in the past.
Failing is a golden opportunity for you to learn about your mistakes and yourself
My greatest achievements in life will always be a result of me overcoming my failures. setback has made me a stronger person and a more driven individual. Every setback has motivated me to do better and aim higher than before.
Failure is the finest way of teaching yourself what you are good at and what you are not so good at. Now don’t take this out of context. I am not telling you to go fail your next exam or completely screw up this fall’s recruiting season because “it will teach you what your strengths and weaknesses are.” Of course, success teaches plenty and obviously has a more bountiful reward at the end. But if you tend to go hard on yourself as a result of failing, you are doing yourself no good. Take this opportunity to step back and revaluate yourself. Revaluate what you know versus what you should know.
It is only considered a true “failure” if you do not learn from it. Otherwise, failure is just a seven letter word in the English dictionary that has a definition that is more intense than it needs to be. The reason that I have picked myself up so quickly when I have hit rock bottom and pushed myself harder than anyone pushes themselves is because I learn from my mistakes and I ensure that I do not even come close to making the same mistake twice. Do the same as me. It is not hard at all. Sit back and think about where you went wrong in the past, whether it is in the job-hunting process or in any other facet of life. Isolate the problem and face it head-on. Admit to yourself that yes, you did go wrong but no, this will not bring you down and no, you will not make the same mistake again.
Failing is personal. Do not let the thought of others bring you down
So what if people find out if you fail? Failing is personal and it is no one’s business until you let it be. If you hear negative remarks from people, isolate them from your life. If they cannot appreciate the times that you have fallen, then they have no place to appreciate your times of greatness.
What I like to do when I experience failure is what I call the “retreat and re-treat process”. Initially, I retreat and step back to my comfort zone and spend some time reflecting on where I went wrong. As I mentioned above, I spend some time learning about myself and my failures to ensure that I do not make the same mistake again in the future. After facing failure face-first, I re-“treat” my trusted friends and colleagues with my failure story, what I have learned and what they can learn from it.
I am a true believer in being transparent with my personal failures as discussing them with others in a public setting does not make me uncomfortable. Rather, it comforts me that others are learning from my mistakes so that they do not make the same mistake as me in the future. That is why when I went through the recruiting process at the same time as some of my closest friends “competing” for a spot in our dream firms, we always made it a habit to share where we went wrong in the process so that we learn from each other’s mistakes collectively. It comes as no surprise that we all landed a job with the firms of our choice because we shared and learned from each other’s mistakes, bad habits and yes, failures.
From failing to prevailing
Thomas Edison once said, “I failed my way to success.” He could have said that he “worked his way” to success and/or “obtained knowledge” on his path to success. Why didn’t he? Because working hard and obtaining knowledge comes part and parcel with failure. How can you work hard yet never stumble? How can you obtain knowledge yet never fail to optimize it? You just cannot.
If there is anything that you should learn from this blog post besides learning from your failures, it is this: when you fail and you hit rock bottom, there is only one direction to go and that is up. The only variable is how quickly you go from failing to prevailing.
Because recruiting season is fast approaching and many of you are probably stressed by the fact that you were unable to land a job last year, or the year before and maybe even the year before that, worry not. You have a clean sheet and this year is a new page in your book. This year, you can either shadow yourself with the fear of failing yet again, or you can learn from this blog post and begin a new chapter of great success as an aspiring individual ready to take on any challenge in the world because the fear of failure is no longer an option!
I hope you enjoyed this blog post and that it has motivated you to try harder to achieve your goals than ever before. The reason why I like sharing my failures is because I want you to understand that no one is perfect. I might be the “Campaign Star” of PwC, but it is because of the times I have failed, learned and fought my way back in life that has gotten me to where I am today.
So go ahead and dream big, bigger than before because failure is no longer a hindrance but rather your secret path to success!
On a side note, I wish all of the PwC-sponsored athletes competing in the 2012 London games the very best of luck! Make us proud!