One day when Gina was in third grade at her Catholic grammar school, some children were pulled out of the classroom and taken to a much nicer room with beautiful windows and potted flowers. This new and improved room had been designed for the gifted students in the class, and Gina waited for her name to be called. It never was.
One of the nuns explained to Gina’s hardworking single mother that although she was a sweet child, academically she was just average. Gina’s mom, whose high hopes for her extraordinary child had just been dashed, told Gina that she would just have to try harder. So – trying harder – and getting attention for the abilities she knew she possessed, became Gina’s challenge, as well as the theme of her educational and professional experiences, for years to come.
From Gifted Kid to Corporate Loser
I can relate to Gina’s story because I have one of my own. Unlike Gina, I was a gifted kid. And that giftedness was my undoing when I entered Corporate America as a cocky twenty-two year old who had no clue about making a strong first impression or being diplomatic. It took me only a few months to get kicked out of my boss’ office and taken off several key client engagements.
The string of failures in my early career became my calling card as I traveled from speaking engagement to speaking engagement across the globe. I found that sharing my setbacks allowed my audiences to relate to me as a human being and encouraged them to listen to me.
There is no question that my early career was emotionally difficult, but I wouldn’t trade those years for anything. If I hadn’t crashed and burned so spectacularly, I wouldn’t have taken personal development courses like Dale Carnegie so seriously, and I wouldn’t have learned all of the critical lessons that formed the foundation of my bestselling book, They Don’t Teach Corporate in College. Those experiences alone fueled my passion to make the college-to-career transition easier for young professionals, and without them, I would not have a fulfilling career today.
Failure Resonates For All Time
Most people advanced in years will tell you that it’s not the successes that have the greatest impact on your life, but the failures. It’s the failures that we remember, it’s the failures that make us think. So whether you’ve been recently fired, humiliated in front of a senior executive, or told by a trusted mentor that you will never make it in this business, don’t let your current negativity trick you into believing that your career is over. In reality, this is a temporary setback that will fully shape the professional you will become.
Like the scar you got at age eight when your older brother pushed you through the first-floor window, your failure will be a mark of your authentic self. Talking about it will provide a refreshing dose of humility in a world rife with self-promotion and overinflated egos. So be grateful for it.
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