The allure of failure is hard to see when disappointment is fresh
By Aidan Mouellic, Staff Writer
I recently wrote in the Other Press that taking chances is critical to attaining success and happiness; living a risk-free life is equal to living a boring, miserable life. In that article though, I glossed over the bit about how awful failure is and how if we don’t deal with it in a constructive way, it could erase all the positivity from the initial risky situation.
If you’re a student, you’re at school because you want to graduate and get an interesting, well-paying job. Ideally we would all be in school just for the sheer pleasure of learning, but most of us just want money, and that’s okay. When you graduate, you’ll be competing for the good jobs along with many other people in the same situation.
Just like how we all think we’re better drivers than the person in the lane next to us, we all think that we’re the best candidates when we apply for a job we really want. But employers look at us differently, and they often discard applicants for bizarre reasons. For example, applicants who have seemingly “ethnic-sounding” names have been shown to fare worse than Mr. and Mrs. Smith in the job market. Even if you’re right for the job, you’ll sometimes fail at achieving your goal; that sucks, but you’ll have to be ready to accept that.
You’ve likely seen the headlines in the news about the record number of unemployed college graduates, or you’ve noticed that all of your baristas have degrees; clearly, landing that dream job is not a smooth process. Still, you’ll inevitably anticipate success. You’ll find that job posting that seems made for you, you’ll apply, interview, wait… and not get it. If you have normal human emotions, you’ll be devastated by the failure, but at the same time, the biggest failure would be to not have applied in the first place.
When you find yourself in the midst of failure, or as I like to call it “soaking in the ocean of suck,” you can either grab a towel and dry yourself up or you can continue bathing and get pruney fingers. I recommend moving on as quickly as possible.
Psychologists have often pointed at the Kübler-Ross model of grief when one is dealing with any sort of trauma. The model is comprised of five stages (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance), and can be applied to most situations of trauma and failure; attempting to land that sought-after job is traumatic to many. I’ve experienced all stages in the past after failure, but now I do everything I can to just skip to acceptance because most of the stages aren’t productive.
On the path to acceptance, it’s key to take the time to realize that no matter how awful failure feels, no matter how large and seemingly insurmountable the obstacles are, it will get better; there is always sunshine on the other side of the clouds. But before you reach the sunshine, look inside and try to figure out why you didn’t attain your goal—then start working towards a solution. The key to making failures suck less is to use them to your advantage, and that’s by allowing failure to illuminate your weaknesses that may have been hidden from you.
Perhaps Michael Jordan said it best: “I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”