Before starting any career-related work, I sat down with and spoke to a very successful individual and good friend of mine. After our conversation turned to careers, I uttered these exact words: “I want to be great and successful in life. What’s your opinion on the best way to achieve this?” As he looked me in the eyes he replied, “Jordan, to be successful you must first learn how to fail. You must expose yourself and break yourself down so that you can build the best person you can be.” This response changed my whole life and has been a phrase that has always stuck by me.
As I grew up, I was always afraid of one word –“failure.” It was a word that haunted me and something that I vowed never to experience or better yet, never hoped to experience. All throughout my childhood, I saw failure as negative. It was my worst enemy and my worst nightmare all at the same time. I feared it and whenever an important life challenge came along, the fear of failure was right there with me, guiding my thoughts and speaking over shoulder. I was afraid to make any sort of mistake and failure was something I tried every second of the day to avoid. I’m sure many of you feel the exact same way.
However, as I continued to grow into a young adult, I realized that failure was not something to be feared, but rather, something that I should have embraced my whole life. As I matured, I began to realize that as much as I tried to avoid it, it would eventually be the force that propelled me forward in my career and shape me into the strong-willed, resilient individual I am today. Some of the greatest, most influential people in this world have at some point failed in their lives. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team; Walt Disney was told his ideas lacked imagination; and Steve Jobs was fired from Apple. As one retraces history, there are ample examples of great, successful individuals who have failed and made mistakes. And despite their failures, we continually view these individuals as legends in their respective fields because of their ability to turn failure into positivity. And it was only when I let go and I began to see failure as a necessary step in my development that I began to experience true success. I was tired of living in the shadow of failure, allowing its all-encompassing nature determine how and in what ways I lived my life. Rather, I used failure as the motivational tool for success and I fed off its energy to create positivity and progress. Denzel Washington once said that when you fall, always fall forward. It is only now, that I truly understand what he meant.
Moreover, the job market, especially for young professionals and fresh grads can be extremely tough. It is an environment that can cripple you and continually push you down. However, rather than choosing to let those failures and hardships define you, use it as inspiration. Let it motivate you to continue to seek something bigger and better. Ultimately, let failure drive you to success. Allow it to be the vehicle that propels you forward. At the end of the day, if there is one thing that all those who were great in the past had in common, it was the ability to take failure and spin it into a positive framework. Change the way that you think and view failure, and I assure you it will change your life.