May You Have the Opportunity to Fail

Photo by Josh Marshall Courtesy of Unsplash

Launching Thinking Good, nearly a year and a half ago, has been an exhilarating and at times frustrating rollercoaster ride. I’ve experienced the incumbent fast starts, abrupt stops and twists and turns of entrepreneurship. I’ve grappled with the challenges of what I dub #SmlBizLyf: balancing work and family (especially difficult when you work where you live); pushing back on “honey-dos” imposed on my flexible schedule; and the social isolation of not having a work buddy to chat with over a much-needed coffee break.

I’ve made my fair share of mistakes. Not everything has turned out as I would like, but fortunately most of my missteps have been instructive and none fatal.

On the Suite Talk podcast, I often ask guests what’s one lesson they’re glad to have learned early in life. The responses are drawn equally from positive and negative experiences and result in strengthened fortitude, resilience, discernment, patience, a better understanding of limitations or willingness to seek advice. For me, I’m glad to have learned the importance—reoccurrence—of failure.

In the fall of my sophomore year I ran in a special election for student government. The previous spring I unsuccessfully sought another post and was determined to not add one more loss to my scorecard. In my haste, I misread the rules and exceeded the spending limits when I took out a full-page ad in the Daily Bruin.

To make a very long and very painful story short, I received a sanction prohibiting me from passing out campaign literature for roughly half the time the polls were open.

Dejected and conceding defeat, I meandered aimlessly around campus—until it hit me. There were 20,000 copies of the Daily Bruin across campus and no one could stop me from passing out a free newspaper. I rallied my troops and told them to grab every newspaper they could find and go to work.

When the votes were tallied, only 126 separated me from the winner.

In that loss, I learned a very important and valuable less. Yes, it’s important to do your homework. But just as importantly, I learned not all mistakes are fatal, so never ever give up.

In that moment of despair my mettle and creativity were tested. Had I given up completely, a loss was inevitable. It took me a while, but ultimately, I saw an opportunity in my failure, which if I realized earlier would likely have changed the outcome.

Yes, failure sucks and it can hurt, but it ain’t always bad. In fact, it can often be good, if you are honest with yourself about what led you to fail.

Was it hubris?

Poor planning?

Was it a good plan poorly executed?

Or was it a bad idea that never should have seen the light of day? 

Only an honest and rigorous self-examination will reveal the truth.

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