How To Turn Career Failure Into Gold

The year is 1972, a young computer geek has been working with some friends to create a traffic survey system. It seems like a winning idea because the demand is there. Local government needs this information in order to improve roads, but the current way of doing things is laborious and expensive. The team gets to work building a computer system that will be far more efficient at collecting this data.

The finished product works perfectly, but then disaster strikes because state government makes the decision to provide a free traffic survey tabulation service. It’s a huge disappointment for the team –so much work for nothing. Few would have blamed this young entrepreneur for just giving up at this point, but he didn’t. His name is Bill Gates, and he used what he learned from this experience to create Microsoft.


“It's fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.”

Bill Gates

Failure can make you or break you, and it all depends on how you react to it. The most common reason people fail to achieve their dreams isn’t due of lack of ability, but because of their inability to handle setbacks. When Randy Pausch gave his inspiring ‘Last Lecture’, he suggested that failure was created by the universe to prevent the half-hearted from achieving the same level of success as those who are fully committed to a goal.

“It's not how hard you hit. It's how hard you get hit...and keep moving forward.”


Randy Pausch

The Pain Of Failure

Pithy platitudes about picking yourself up after failure are all very well and good, but actually dealing with it can be incredibly painful and overwhelming. It is easy be philosophical once you have bounced back from one of these disasters, but it takes true grit to keep going when it looks like your world is falling apart.

Fear is a huge drain on energy and motivation, and it can drive us into depression. Let’s be honest, dealing with failure isn’t easy at all, and this is why so many of us never achieve our dreams. We have to dig down deep to get beyond our fears about the future. The good news is dealing with failure is going to be ultimately far less painful than the regret associated with giving up on a dream.


You Need To Be Prepared for Failure

“Success is not built on success. It's built on failure. It's built on frustration. Sometimes it’s built on catastrophe.”

Sumner Redstone

If you want to achieve anything significant in your life, you not to be prepared to face failure. It is unreasonable to expect smooth sailing all the way to your goals, and if you have this expectation, you are almost certainly going to suffer for it. Failure is going to happen, and the way you deal with it determines your future. Tom Kelley (entrepreneur and author) goes so far as to say “fail often so you can succeed sooner”.

Expecting failure doesn’t make you are a pessimist. It is just you being realistic. Believing you are going to fail is definitely the wrong attitude to have in life, but this is not the same as expecting failure. It’s all about your perspective. If you look upon these setbacks as a necessary part of your journey, you can expect them without feeling intimidated by them.

You need to be willing to take risks in order to achieve greatness. The way it usually works is that the bigger the prize, the more uncertainty is going to be involved. If you are afraid of failure, you are going to keep playing it safe, but this can only give you at best the path of mediocrity.

Look at all the people who picked job security over their dreams, but still ended up unemployed and facing financial ruin. Playing it safe can be just as dangerous as taking risks, but the rewards are far less impressive. The problem with choosing the path of least resistance in life is it doesn’t really go anywhere.

Some of the largest companies in the world, including Google, prefer their employees to have experienced some failures as well as success. This is because people who have only known praise and achievement tend to fall apart as soon as things start go wrong – and things always do go wrong eventually. If you ever apply for a job at one of these companies, the interviewer may be far more impressed by your story of bouncing back from failure than by your qualifications - this type of experience is like gold.

Failure Can Be Your Greatest Teacher

The most important victories in human history have all come after a period of intense struggle. It is only when our back is against the wall that we are forced into the position of having to fight without reservation. It is during these times that we can achieve things we didn’t even know were possible. It is too easy to just coast along in life when things are going well for us. It is failure that motivates us to dig deeper and to up our game.

Every time you fail and pick yourself up again, you proceed on your journey that little bit wiser. You can choose to learn from this experience. At the very least, you have discovered a path to your goal that isn’t going to work. So long as you change course after each of these wrong paths, it is inevitable that you will find your way to the goal eventually. You can follow the example of Bill Gates by using the knowledge you have gained from the experience to create something better. It can mean that you later look back on the failure as the best thing that ever happened to you.

How To Turn Failure into Gold

When things start to go wrong, you are likely to experience doubt about your own abilities and fear about the future. These thoughts are a natural reaction to failure, and it’s not really possible to prevent them from popping into your mind. What you can do is stop this negativity from taking over your thinking like a virus.

The most important thing is to not take this setback too personally. There is a world of difference between failing and being a failure – you only become the latter when you give up on yourself. This can also be a good time to focus on other areas of your life such as hobbies and family, because this can help you recover faster from the disappointment. Now is the perfect time to remember your successes and all the good things around you because gratitude is going to re-energize your motivation.

It’s okay to spend a day or two licking your wounds, but the best thing you can do in response to failure is to take some action. Even if the way out of this mess isn’t clear yet, taking action is still going to be helpful because it makes you feel more in control, and it also prevents fear from paralyzing your thinking. One of the most positive steps you can take is to analyze what happened to see what can be learned from the experience.

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