Sunday, October 20, 2013

Failure, Recovery, Success


The cycle of failure, recovery, and success is repeated across the board in many disciplines. In 2010 I started a company, failed, and I'm still in recovery from that. Six days ago I ran a marathon, in my mind failed, and I am in recovery from that. However, experience teaches that after the dip, which is the failure and recovery, there is success at the end of the tunnel. How do I know this? I am fortunate to have found such a simple activity, running, which teaches life lessons in an accelerated manner.

About 3/4 of my races in my mind count as average, or below average, which in my mind usually counts as some measure of failure to measure up to where I really am. However, those few races, where I feel good the whole way, run well, and set a PR are worth so much more because of it. I go out too fast in far too many races. However, it takes a few failures to remind me how terrible it feels to finish slow, so that I will run a logical race the next time around.

I talk about running a lot, but I really want to focus on career success today. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone has to learn new skills. In our careers we will likely fail in college many times, recover from those experiences, and finally succeed by getting a degree. It is the same in our careers, we will ship poor products, we will approve inadequate designs, we will send inappropriate emails, and many times we will say the wrong thing. I'm not condoning these actions at all. I'm not saying you should try to make mistakes. I am saying, you could probably do better next time. It's a treadmill, how good is good enough? When the treadmill breaks you have won I suppose.

Perhaps this view is a problem on my part that I am not able to take the data and change the plan or quit the endeavor. I simply stick to doing something long after failure is assured. That being said, if anyone had said that I would run multiple marathons faster than I ever ran a 5k in high school, I would not have believed it at the time. Between there and here was significant failure. Plenty of recovery and learning, and finally some successes. It is exactly the same in my career. Do you know what it is like to go to a top 60 university in the United States, top 10 when it comes to earnings potential and return on investment, receive two degrees and then spend 57 week out of engineering, a supposedly in demand major? There was a time (September 2010) when I considered nearly tossing the whole thing to make snow all winter and teach rock climbing all summer.

What I am trying to say is, persistence matters. We can learn from failure. We can learn more from most failures than most successes. We must not be afraid to fail. Obviously we should not desire to fail, but fear of failure is also fear of success.

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