Can you ‘bounce back’ from a failure in your career?
Recently, a 48Days Podcast listener asked:
“Dan, How much should we risk in pursuit of our career dreams? Are there failures that are fatal?”
Great questions. I believe there really are “successful failures” in our careers and businesses. That’s not an oxymoron. Napoleon Hill once said: “Failure seems to be nature’s plan for preparing us for great responsibilities.” Peter Drucker even added this caution: “The one person to distrust is the one who never makes a mistake. Either he is a phony, or he stays with the safe, the tried, and the trivial.”
So, part of the issue is – Do you want to do something great – in any area? If you’re content with mediocrity in your life, then you’ll try to protect yourself from any failure. Just recognize the trade-off.
As an author and career coach, I’m hearing from people every day who tried and failed. One gentleman lost $3.2 million he inherited from his grandmother in a failed retail clothing business. A close friend lost $24 million in a failed real estate development. Baby Boomers are being terminated after 20 years of loyal service and Gen Y workers are often shown the door before they have time to prove their worth.
Research shows that if you are under thirty years old, there is 90% chance you will be fired sometime in the next twenty years. Bernie Marcus was fired from a job as manager of the HandyDanImprovementCenter, then went on to start Home Depot. A few years ago I experienced a horrible “failure” in business – leaving me deeply in debt and having to borrow a car to start generating income again. Should I have avoided the pain and anguish by taking a safer route, or was that experience the necessary catalyst for learning the principles that launched the success I enjoy today?
My theory is that you will be a brighter, better person for trying something big – even if you “fail.”
I have been dumbfounded recently by running into several long-time acquaintances who are struggling for too long after a career failure. I’ve seen people who were used to first class all the way – restaurants, cars, private flights, yachts and houses. One long-term friend told me he has been selling his fine clothes on eBay to pay the apartment rent, totaled his car with no insurance and is asking for donations online for food money.
Why would a guy that like get trapped in a “down” position and seem to stay there?
It’s easy to see that failures in our careers often launch us into better opportunities. In the last two years, thousands of people have lost their jobs. For many of those, that unwelcome and unexpected event was a wake-up call that prompted them to bring a dormant dream to life.
At 32 years old, Crystal was working in her chosen field of forensics, but was trapped in a toxic corporate culture (which had driven her to the emergency room for panic attacks – twice). Although feeling the sting of being a failure, while recovering from home she initiated a job search. Today she’s the director of cyber threats for a major company at nearly twice her previous salary and in an environment where co-workers encourage each other’s efforts.
Here is what I’ve observed. To come back from “failure,” a person must have:
1. Supportive Relationships
Without others who believe in us we begin to question our value and worth. If family and those closest to you find fault and criticize, find those who will encourage and cheer you on.
2. Uncompromising Integrity
Nothing destroys our credibility and opportunities more quickly than breaches of integrity. Once begun, lies, distortions and exaggerations tend to feed on themselves and require more of the same in an attempt to maintain the status quo.
3. Clear Purpose
Without a clear vision for the future we become wandering generalities. Be able to convey with confidence your strongest areas of competence. No one is attracted to someone who just “wants a job.” Know your unique value to an organization.
4. Vibrant Health
It’s tempting in times of feeling like a failure to allow ourselves pity parties and comfort food, thus deteriorating another area of our lives. Use times of rebuilding to make massive deposits of success in your health. With the guy above who lost $3.2 million I prescribed that he go to the gym every morning for two hours. The physical stamina and creative energy birthed there allowed him to very quickly bounce back with career success.
5. Optimistic Faith
Believing that we are part of a bigger plan and that there is a brighter future up ahead is critical to coming back from any failure.
Maintaining success is these areas may be more important than adding another degree on your resume.