I’m a perfectionist. The problem with that scenario is that it is literally impossible to be perfect. It’s nearly impossible to be the best at anything, let alone the best at everything. The benefits of failure far outweigh the costs; each failure is another confirmation of what doesn’t work, so that we can refocus our efforts on the way to what does work. People unfamiliar with failure get too comfortable in their own skin, and when the inevitable failure does happen the person is sometimes so shaken that it can irrevocably change the course of their life.
This semester I was faced with just this situation. I applied for an award given to outstanding seniors by the Business Student Council and was extremely confident about my application. Once I moved on to the interview round, I was a little nervous about how I did, but I’d never been turned down for any interview, ever. Once the winners started receiving their calls, I knew I had lost. I wasn’t outstanding? How could this be? I was involved in half a dozen student clubs and organizations on campus, was an Honors student who had studied abroad twice, had landed a high-paying internship my junior year and had held several student jobs on campus. I was shocked and deeply hurt by this failure, and my confidence took a major hit.
After the initial shock and feelings of remorse wore off, I began to think about why I could have possibly been denied something I was so confident I would get. Once I started thinking through all of the things I thought were great about me, and it began to stand out in my mind that sure, I was involved in a lot. I was involved in as much or more as those who beat me for the award. The difference was, I couldn’t think of a single outstanding thing I had done for any of these causes. I was involved in so much that I was doing nothing while doing everything all at once.
The lessons to take away from a failure are these:
1) Don’t see failure as a negative thing. Use it as a lesson and move forward.
2) Don’t be shaken by failure; be inspired! Most great thinkers of our time were the ones who stared failure in the face and pushed on until they achieved success.
3) Operate inside your strength zone but outside of your comfort zone. Continually push yourself to succeed and know that you will never make the same mistake twice.
Remember, every failure makes you stronger. Failure is the best way to learn. Reflect upon a personal failure in your life and see how it made you stronger!