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6 Benefits of Failure That Prove That It Is Actually a Good Thing

6 Benefits of Failure That Prove That It Is Actually a Good Thing

Before we start I just want to point out that over the years, I have tried to eradicate the word failure from my vocab. It’s harsh, negative and not an accurate reflection of the situation that occurred. However I use the word failure here, as the alternative title “why not doing things as well as one hoped would turn out is actually a good thing” is a bit of a mouthful.

The Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of failure is simply “a lack of success” which actually isn’t as hard a definition as we humans seem to translate it into. We seem to think that the definition of failure is being a let-down, unworthy, or useless. Just this fact alone highlights to me that “failure” isn’t as bad as we think, but is it any good for us?

Over the years I have failed at many things: passing my driving test the first time, my AS levels, a business venture with my dad, the cheesecake addiction and I could go on and on. But then again I have also not failed at so much more: I won two gold medals in an international martial arts competition, I successfully travelled Australia on my own, I am grade 5 in piano, and I’m finally leaning Japanese. However I seem to have a terrible habit of dwelling on the negatives rather than celebrating and relishing in the positives. I suspect I am not the only one either.

Society seems to have a huge hang up on failure, using it to define us, stop us from trying again and living the life we want. But I strongly believe that failure is in fact a good thing and that we could all do with a healthy dose of it once in a while. Here are 6 reasons why failure is actually beneficial. Use them to your advantage.

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Failure benefit #1:  It provides a reality check on where we are at

When I failed my AS levels I was devastated. I felt that I had seriously and irreversibly failed. My dream since I was 13 was to go to university and be the first of my family to attend a university. I knew that if I didn’t get good A level grades I would lose my chance. It also didn’t help what the career advisor had said that I wasn’t academic enough to go to university. However why did I fail my AS levels, if university was something I had dreamed of for the past 4 years?! Put simply, I wasn’t in the right mind frame. I wasn’t happy and that was having bad effect on my study. Sometimes failing at something, even if you truly desire it, is an indication that something elsewhere isn’t right. Use failure as a light to reveal what is really going on with your situation.

Failure benefit #2: The lessons learned are priceless

A few years ago, my parents and I bought a guesthouse and bar in Cambodia with a friend of my dad’s as a partner in the venture – the expat’s dream of sun, sea and serving drinks to happy holiday makers and fellow expats who have escaped the rat race. Bliss. However, 9 months down the line and we had lost our investment and sold our share. We cut our losses and got out. The dream was gone. It has always been my ambition since I was 15 to open my own businesses, mainly a tea room, so buying the bar was an exciting venture and adventure. How did our dream go wrong so quickly?

In hindsight, because we didn’t manage it as well as we could have from the very start and problem after problem meant that our profit was being eaten into like a hungry caterpillar. After the initial hurt and anger I came to realise that the lessons learned from this failure are priceless. I learned a great deal about carving out a business plan, forging a successful business partnership and how the small details in business matter. If I could turn back time, would I do this all again? Hell yes! I learned more with the failure of the guesthouse and bar then I ever would from a guru’s “how to” book. Failure gives you an opportunity to learn from your mistaken actions and do what’s right the next time round.

Failure benefit #3: This isn’t a “one shot only” world

Luckily for us, we live in a prosperous world, one where there isn’t just one opportunity to do anything. There are always second chances. Sometimes third. For Edison, there were 1,000 chances to invent the light bulb! If you fail once, then try again. Just don’t be foolish enough to make the same mistakes again. When I was younger and new to the property game (I as fortunate to be able to buy a flat to rent at 19 with an inheritance) I made the cardinal sin of being too soft, not collecting rent and being too lenient as the month’s rolled on and I hadn’t received a cheque from my tenant.

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One year later, a looming court case, an emotional rollercoaster and £5,000 down, I had well and truly failed. However, will I make this mistake again? No. I have learned, moved on, recovering my losses and now looking to buy my second property to rent. Failure teaches us to learn from our mistakes so that the next time we can avoid making the same ones. There will be another time – this world is full of second chances and opportunities, just don’t be too blinded from the hurt of your previous failure to see them.

Failure benefit #4: It builds strength of character

Anyone can be the hero when times are good but how do you measure up when the going gets tough? Do you crumble like a sandcastle or do you stand your ground and keep smiling, focusing on where you want to be? Take a moment to think about that before you consider yourself a failure. Going through a failure is a remarkable test of your character, your courage, your determination and your mind set. I truly believe that it isn’t until you’ve been through the worse that you can truly appreciate the best. Failure is kind of like a bench mark. It will show you what you are made of. Hopefully it’s steel.

Failure benefit #5: It drives you on

You can use the experience of failure to your advantage or not. The best way to use it is to help spur you on to do better next time. Use it as a tool for determination and grit to drive towards success. Don’t use it to drive you towards a box of tissues and cowering under the duvet.

Failure benefit #6: Those who have failed before made in the long run

If you think that those who “made it” were lucky or that it was handed to them on a plate, then think again. Here are some of my favourite success-over-failure stories. I hope they motivate you as much as they do me.

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Steven Spielberg was rejected from the University of Southern California School of Theatre, Film and Television… three times! Whilst he did eventually attend school at another location, he did so only to drop out to become a director before finishing. He didn’t give up however and 35 years after starting his degree, Spielberg returned to school in 2002 to finally complete his work and earn his BA.

Steve Jobs was technically a failure as a college dropout, a fired tech executive and an unsuccessful businessman. At 30 years old he was actually removed from the company he founded. In a 2005 commencement speech at Stanford University, Jobs explained, “I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.”

Sylvester Stallone had it rough as a child, being taunted in school and constantly in and out of foster homes. As an adult, things didn’t improve as he was unable to earn a steady income, and even had to sell his dog for $25.00 to help pay his electricity bill. It was only 2 weeks after selling his dog that he wrote the Rocky script in nearly 20 hours straight. After being rejected over 1,500 times (that’s more than Edison’s failure!), Stallone was given a nod by United Artists for $125,000… but only if Stallone would not star in it. Stallone refused. Even when he was subsequently offered $250,000 and $325,000, he still refused as he wanted to star in it. He finally reached a compromise, starring in the film but only taking $35,000 and a percentage of profits as a concession. What was Stallone’s first purchase with his $35,000? His beloved dog, for $15,000!  But I am sure he could afford it seeing as Rocky grossed over $200,000,000 and his sequels grossed over a billion dollars!!

“When life knocks you down, try and land on your back, because if you can look up, you can get up” – Les Brown

Never Quit!

Featured photo credit: Sarah Reid via flickr.com

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Published on March 25, 2019

How to Find New Growth Opportunities at Work

How to Find New Growth Opportunities at Work

Career advancement is an enticement that today’s companies use to lure job candidates. But to truly uncover growth opportunities within a company, it’s up to you to take the initiative to move up. You can’t rely on recruiter promises that your company will largely hire from within. Even assurances you heard from your direct supervisor during the interviewing process may not pan out.

But if you begin a job knowing that you’re ultimately responsible for getting yourself noticed, you will be starting one step ahead.

Accomplished entrepreneur and LinkedIn Co-Founder Reid Hoffman said,

“If you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward.”

It’s important to recognize that taking charge of your own career advancement, and then mapping out the steps you need to succeed, is key to moving forward on your trajectory.

Make a Point of Positioning Yourself as a Rising Star

As an employee looking for growth opportunities within your current company, you have many avenues to position yourself as a rising star.

As an insider, you’re able to glean insights on company strategies and apply your expertise where it’s most needed. Scout out any skills gaps, then make a point to acquire and apply them. And, when you have creative ideas to offer, make it your mission to gain the ear of those in the organization who can put your ideas to the test.

Valiant shows of commitment and enterprise make managers perk up and take notice, keeping you ahead of both internal and external competitors.

Employ these other useful tips to let your rising star qualities shine:

1. Promote Your Successes to Your Higher-Ups

When your boss casually asks how you’re doing, use this valuable moment to position yourself as indispensable: “I’m floating on clouds because three clients have already commented on how well they like my redesign of the company website.”

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Tell your supervisors about any and all successes. Securing a new contract or signing a new customer should be a cause for celebration. Be sure to let your bosses know.

2. Cultivate Excellent Listening Skills

Listen well, and ask great questions. Realize that people love to talk about themselves.

But if you’re a superb listener, others will confide in you, and you’ll learn from what they share. You may even find out something valuable about your own prospects in the company.

If others view you as even-minded and thoughtful, they’ll respect your ideas and, in turn, listen to what you have to say.

3. Go to All Office Networking Events

Never skip the office Christmas party, your coworker’s retirement party, or any office birthday parties, wedding showers, or congratulatory parties for colleagues.

If others see you as a team player, it will help you rise in your company. These on-site parties will also help you mingle with co-workers whom you might not ordinarily have the chance to see. For special points, help organize one or two of these get-togethers.

Take the Extra Step to Show Your Value to the Company

Managers and HR staff know that it can be less risky – and a lot less costly — to promote from within. As internal staff, you likely have a good grasp of the authority structure and talent pool in the company, and know how to best navigate these networks in achieving both the company’s goals and your own.

The late Nobel-Prize winning economist, Gary Becker, coined the term “firm-specific,” which describes the unique skills required to excel in an individual organization. You, as a current employee, have likely tapped into these specific skills, while external hires may take a year or more to master their nuances.

Know that your experience within the company already provides value, then find ways to add even more value, using these tips:

4. Show Initiative

Commit yourself to whatever task you’re given, and make a point of going above and beyond.

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Position yourself so that you’re ready to take on any growth opportunities that present themselves. If you believe you have skills that have gone untapped, find a manager who will give you a chance to prove your worth.

Accept any stretch assignment that showcases your readiness for advancement. Stay late, and arrive early. Half of getting the best assignments is sticking around long enough to receive them.

5. Set Yourself Apart by Staying up on Everything There Is to Know About Your Company and Its Competitors

Subscribe to and read the online trade journals. Become an active member in your industry’s network of professionals. Go to industry conferences, and learn your competitors’ strategies.

Be the on-the-ground eyes and ears for your organization to stay on top of industry trends.

6. Go to Every Company Meeting Prepared and Ready to Learn

A lot of workers feel meetings are an utter waste of time. They’re not, though, because they provide face-time with higher-ups and those in a position to give you the growth opportunities you need.

Go with the intention of absorbing information and using it to your advantage — including the goals and work styles of your superiors. Respect the agenda, listen more than you speak, and never beleaguer a point.

Accelerate Your Career Growth Opportunities

A recent study found that the five predictors of employees with executive potential were: the right motivation, curiosity, insight, engagement, and determination. These qualities help you stand out, but it’s also important to establish a track record of success and to not appear to be over-reaching in your drive to move up in your company.

Try to see yourself from your boss’s position and evaluate your promote-ability.

Do you display a passion and commitment toward meeting the collective goals of the company? Do you have a motivating influence with team members and show insight and excellence in all your work?

These qualities will place you front and center when growth opportunities arise.

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Use these strategic tips to escalate your opportunities for growth:

7. Find a Mentor

With mentorship programs fast disappearing, this isn’t always easy. But you need to look for someone in the company who has been promoted several times and who also cares about your progress.

Maybe it’s the person who recommended you for the job. Or maybe it’s your direct supervisor. It could even be someone across the hall or in a completely different department.

Talk to her or him about growth opportunities within your company. Maybe she or he can recommend you for a promotion.

8. Map out Your Own Growth Opportunity Chart

After you’ve worked at the company for a few months, work out a realistic growth chart for your own development. This should be a reasonable, practical chart — not a pie-in-the-sky wish list of demands.

What’s reasonable? Do you think being promoted within two years is reasonable? What about raises? Try to inform your own growth chart with what you’ve heard about other workers’ raises and promotions.

Once you’ve rigorously charted a realistic path for your personal development within the company, try to talk to your mentor about it.

Keep refining your chart until it seems to work with your skills and proven talents. Then, arrange a time to discuss it with your boss.

You may want to time the discussion around the time of your performance review. Then your boss can weigh in with what he feels is reasonable, too.

9. Set Your Professional Bar High

Research shows that more than two-thirds of workers are just putting in their time. But through your active engagement in the organization and commitment to giving your best, you can provide the contrast against others giving lackluster performances.

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Cultivate the hard skills that keep you on the cutting edge of your profession, while also refining your soft skills. These are the attributes that make you better at embracing diverse perspectives, engendering trust, and harnessing the power of synergy.

Even if you have an unquestionably left-brain career — a financial analyst or biotechnical engineer, for example — you’re always better off when you can form kind, courteous, quality relationships with colleagues.

Let integrity be the cornerstone of all your interactions with clients and co-workers.

The Bottom Line

Growth opportunities are available for those willing to purposely and adeptly manage their own professional growth. As the old adage says,

“Half of life is showing up.”

The other half is sticking around so that when your boss is looking for someone to take on a more significant role, you are among the first who come to mind.

Remember, your career is your business!

More Resources About Ever-Growing

Featured photo credit: Zach Lucero via unsplash.com

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