I have a confession, one that when I do, people inwardly (and outwardly) cringe and a look of pity sweeps across their faces. And since I recently spoke with Eric from FoundersBeta, I’ve gotten a lot of messages and notes about talking about failure. So I’m here to confess it to you, the internet, strangers, friends, family and anyone else who happens upon this: I have failed things in my lifetime, and I don’t have all the answers. And I’m still here, probably better than ever because I try to learn from failure.
I have failed things in my lifetime. Is not a statement people are used to hearing, or saying. The simple truth is…I’m learning, growing and developing my skill set, and from time to time, I fail professionally and personally. Sometimes it’s small: a failed twitter campaign or a customer success email, and sometimes it’s big: relationships, a Kickstarter campaign rollout. If you’re not 99% perfect, the world tends to believe everything below to be a failure, and for a long time I did too. The fear of failure holds so many of us back from experimenting in campaigns, hiring someone who doesn’t check all the boxes, or trying something brand new, because: what if I fail, what will people think of me?
I failed university Anatomy once, the whole course, I was mortified and cried for 3 days. I failed experiments in microbiology and cellular biology. Still got an honours degree in Biology and Chemistry. I failed my very first Accounting class in my MBA, miserably, as if I’d never seen a single number in my whole life. Still earned that MBA. I’ve had marketing campaigns, sales techniques and strategic plans all start to crack, and show signs of failure, I still have a job. I’ve failed at a pretty significant relationship, and I’ve lost some great friends because of missteps, miscommunications and misunderstandings, I’m still standing with amazing people in my life. All of these amount to failures to society on some level. And a lot of this I haven’t talked about very much, because we’re supposed to hid the bad bits, and never admit that things just sometimes, go wrong.
Friends, I am here to tell you, it’s all going to be ok. You’re allowed to fail.
Failure is part of life, and trying to hide it, pretend it doesn’t happen, or to say you have all the answers to coverup a misstep, well, is bullshit. But I’ve learned over the years that failure is just a stepping stone to success, no — better successes through growth. If you were perfect all the time and you had all the answers, life would be boring. Instead, having a stumble, or getting knocked down, but being able to pick yourself up and learn, that’s growth, and gives you an upper hand in innovative thinking and creating. Being humble enough to admit you’re not the be-all and end-all while learning is the key to being a successful human from failure. Making greatness out of a great mess. So don’t let your failures define you in a bad way, let them be badges of learning: if I hadn’t failed Anatomy, I wouldn’t have realized my passion really wasn’t science. If I hadn’t failed Accounting, and asked for help, I wouldn’t have the mentors I have in my life from my MBA. And if I hadn’t pushed myself to think outside the boxes within my marketing and customer success roles, I wouldn’t be where I am today professionally.
Admitting your failures isn’t admitting defeat, it’s admitting that you’re growing. And that you’re human. A great imperfect human. And sometimes I need to be reminded of this, do you may need it too: you’re allowed to be imperfect.