Monday, 29 September 2008

Failure: A label applied by mistake

Failure is inevitable in every career. Experiencing failure, and managing the events that can cause us to fail, is therefore critical to the overall success of every individual. Dealing with failure means looking hard at what we - ourselves and others - label as failures and applying this knowledge to better define our success in the future.

Failure, large or small, will occur in every career. Outcomes we would have liked to be different contain valuable lessons for us all. Not getting a promotion or being made redundant are good examples. Most of us plan for the alternative outcome. The person with the greatest chance of succeeding in the future however, is the one who looks into the 'failed' outcome or event, seeking to understand it further.

Events like this - 'failures' as we are programmed to call them - can teach us where we went wrong and why. Under closer examination, such events create opportunities for future successes based on empirical, practical lessons that are also highly personal to us. In short, failures can author and enable genuine progress and they do so with a level of personally relevant insight hard to find in general examples or generic 'How-to' career texts.

So what can any of us do when faced with uncertainty or facing up to failure in our careers? Initially, the aim should be to understand our situation: How did we get here? What were our previous aims? Do we feel different about them now?

Understanding these questions begins to focus on our relationship with work. Exploring our values, talents and goals (see earlier posts for more details on these) continues this and prepares us for the future independently. In time, this externally tested, individual preparation helps us manage opportunities in the immediate future and give our preferences a better chance of coming out on top in the longer term.

Failure is essentially the title we give to our mistakes. Learning from failure can be a fast-track to identifying and defining personal success. Through the failures and mistakes that are inevitable in all of our careers, an insight into lasting satisfaction and fulfilment can be achieved.

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