Failure as a Career Growth Tool

Any time you’re trying to recover from professional failure, start by treating yourself to an Internet search on the subject. You’ll find out that most icons of success see failure as a learning experience.

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison

“A failure is a man who has blundered, but is not able to cash in on the experience.” – Elbert Hubbard

“Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.” – Henry Ford

“Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald

“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” – Bill Cosby

All the popular concepts of failure being character-building, growth-inducing and good for the soul aside, failure is no fun, particularly in its initial stages, and is even more uncomfortable when it happens in a professional situation.

So, how can you turn shock, frustration and embarrassment into a tool for growth and eventual success?

First, get those negative feelings out and processed. Don’t try to ignore your normal, human reactions to screwing up, being passed over or having your pet project rejected. If you do, they will keep bubbling and fermenting just below the surface, creating a poisonous brew that can sap your will, creativity and intelligence just when you need them most. So, get those feelings out, write them down, agonize for an evening or a weekend, and then file the results under “Useful Experiences.”

Second, analyze what happened. Get information, ask for feedback, figure out what you could have done better, and realistically assess what you could control and what was out of your hands.

Next, own up to any ripples spreading out from your failure, apologize if it’s needed, and set to work immediately on solutions and new approaches. If possible, supplement your apologies with specific information about the steps you’re taking to fix the failure. It’s even more impressive if you can also outline specific things you’ve already learned from your experience, and where you plan to look for ways to avoid it in the future.

The most important next step is to take another risk, as soon as you can. Resilience is a priceless professional asset! Gather up all your creativity, intelligence, professional training and knowledge and attack the failure with everything you’ve got, until you emerge from the tussle reinvigorated with new ideas.

For example, if you were in charge of a project that failed, the best response is to quickly come up with a detailed plan for how to incorporate what the failure taught you into a new approach to solving the same problem. Or you can demonstrate that the failure uncovered the fact that what the project focused on was not actually the problem, and outline possible approaches and solutions.

If you can courageously face failure, and then promptly build solutions and success out of the rubble, you are not only building professional skills in countless areas, you are also assuring that you will be considered a valuable asset, no matter what your career.

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8 thoughts on “Failure as a Career Growth Tool

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  4. misskrystal

    If we have to do it over and over, again, until we FINALLY get it, so be it…This is life. But once we do “get it”– and can be triumphant- oh, what a feeling! There is nothing like it, overcoming an obstacle- there is such a joy to this… The thing is, as humans, as long as we are still alive, we have the ability to get up, after a fall…We fall, we get back up-and we try again…The thing we don’t want to do is quit….There is nothing more greater for our spirit, to try and improve upon from our mistakes….We are all learners…Learning never stops.

    I had a caller who had a natural talent in something…This caller went ahead and, without any experience, tried to pursue something in a field that they had a natural talent in, yet, did not have every single qualification. However, even though this caller was told what a great job they did in their interview and testing, there was one section this caller was not educated about—they did not get the job, but the person who interviewed them, told them how fantastic everything else was…. Actually, I had seen that if this caller studied this one particular “section/area” that they were not savvy in, that it would be easy and then, they could try again, and get the job…I hope this caller takes my advice. This is how we prevail. We get up again, we climb the mountain, until we get to the top.

    Brilliant article, Verbena. It is my hope and wish that the people who have not been successful in their dreams read this. This is very powerful and I hope everyone shares this article with their friends and family.
    Thank you so much.
    Miss Krystal

  5. Yas

    Unfortunately, it seems that we do not learn from positive experiences as well as we do from negative ones. Pain is the ultimate teaching tool.

    Great article, Verbena!

  6. thelovelyducklingthelovelyduckling

    I loved your article, Verbena! I have found that learning what doesn’t work is just as valuable as knowing what does.

  7. Jacqueline

    Hi Verbena,
    Love your article, In my opinion, there is no such thing as failure, just stepping stones, lessons learned along the way. If you learn a lesson from any experience, its not failure at all, the hardest part is seeing the trees through the forest, letting the ego fall by the way side, being able to truly be objective in any experience to see that there was a gain in the situation.

    Blessings and Big Hugs!
    Jacqueline x9472

  8. Gina Rose ext.9500Gina Rose ext.9500

    Hi Verbena,

    Excellent article……failure is just another part of life….. it’s painful,…but much can be learned, and ultimately gained, from it.

    Blessed Be )O(
    gina Rose ext.9500


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