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January 7, 2020

Career Development

Overcoming failure at work.

Luckily, a new year brings a new opportunity to wipe the slate clean and start fresh.

Failure at work.

Looking back at 2019, we might wish we had a few do-overs at work. Luckily, a new year brings a new opportunity to wipe the slate clean and start fresh. Here are steps we can all take to enjoy a happy new year professionally:

Remember: Scroll through Facebook or your LinkedIn feed, and you’ll get a generous helping of smiles and success stories. You might see all that happiness and begin to wonder what you’re doing wrong. However, remember behind every “Just got promoted!” post or “Employee of the Month” recognition, there’s likely years of hard work and a few failures.

Unless you start peeling back layers, you might not know most feats were first flops. Before becoming a cultural icon, a TV station in Baltimore fired Oprah Winfrey, telling her she was unfit for television as she walked door. And Sir James Dyson needed 15 years and more than 5,000 prototypes to develop the bagless vacuum cleaner that now bears his name.

Reframe: Appreciate the learning opportunity that follows failure. After roughly 10,000 unsuccessful attempts to create a commercially viable light bulb, Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Rather than consider his initial lack of success wasteful, Edison viewed it as an important part of the process.

Rejoice: Sometimes ego blocks us from seeing the positive in our failure, and pride prevents us from trying again. Win or lose, celebrating the experience you’ve gained will give you the fuel to keep going. So, dust yourself off, give yourself a pat on the back, and try again.

Reflect and Reject: For every Oprah, Dyson, and Edison, there are many more folks who failed, failed, and kept on failing. Let’s face it: sometimes we just must admit defeat and move on to a new project. In start-up culture, they call it “failing fast.” Pull the plug, cut your losses, and get back in the saddle; there are better ways to spend your time and energy.

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