Topic of the Week Losers: Overcoming Failure at Work
Go to any magazine rack and you'll see smiling faces of executives, entertainers and sports stars all rejoicing in the glow of success. It's enough to make you feel terrible about yourself and your career prospects. But what if I were to tell you that many of those success stories started out as total failures? Take Angry Birds. It's now ubiquitous, playful and it appeared to come out of nowhere. But in reality Angry Birds wasn't a sprint to success, it was more of a marathon. It took 52 tries over eight years and the company almost went bankrupt in the process.
Ah, to be an overnight success. What we often see is something that suddenly bursts on the scene that gets everyone talking. But often there is a much longer and more painful backstory that you aren't aware of. Take the famous WD-40 motor oil. Turns out that there were 39 failed attempts before the product that we use today. Dr. Suess had his first book proposal rejected 27 times. The 28th publisher ended up selling 6 million copies. Since most of us are going to have to deal with failure throughout our careers, here are four coping strategies.
Reframe. What did Thomas Edison say after his 10,000 failure to create an electronic lightbulb? "I have not failed, I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." Rather than viewing his lack of success as failure, Edison viewed it as a required part of the process.
Reflect. You can get so hung up in your own ego when you hit a stretch of failure that you fail to see the lessons that it is teaching you about what will work. That's why it's always so important to maintain your perspective so you learn everything you can so you can turn your failure into success.
Rejoice. Rejoice over failure? Let me explain. I knew an author who said that she wouldn't celebrate her book until it hit the New York Times best seller list. Needless to say she never celebrated that book at all. I make it a point to celebrate every project that I work on every chance I get. When I have my idea ready to pitch. After the pitch, after the idea gets tweaked, well you get the picture. Rejoicing gives you the fuel to keep going no matter what gets thrown your way.
Reject. Let's face it, sometimes you just have to admit defeat and move on to a new project. It could be the idea doesn't have what it takes, the timing is bad or it could be that you are the problem. Regardless of what's going wrong, sometimes pulling the plug is your best option. You have to adopt the attitude that there are better places to spend your time, and trust me, if you look you'll find them.
No wonder those birds were angry, after eight years of failure I'd be angry too. But they eventually did take flight, and so can you and your ideas.
Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, "The Boss's Survival Guide." If you have a question for Bob, contact him firstname.lastname@example.org.