Stop Predicting Failure
This blog post is part four in a six-part series by Larry Doty examining how new graduates can compete and excel in a global economy.
Years before winning the Man Booker Prize, author Marlon James’ first novel’s manuscript was rejected by 78 publishers. Similarly, with one of his early drafts, Dr. Seuss faced 29 rejections. For many of us, one or two rejection slips would’ve been more than enough to call it quits. We naturally tend to start predicting failure and defend ourselves by throwing in the towel.
The simple truth, it’s easy to be the person who gives up and says “I might as well stop trying.” Far too often job seekers find themselves facing rejection. Just because you didn’t get the call back for a job interview or you made a pitch at work that was met with criticism, doesn’t mean you should allow failure to become the expectation.
Learning to control your urges to predict failure is particularly important, because at times your brain can work against you. For example, in a study cited on Wired.com, researchers found that when non-football athletes were prompted to kick field goals and missed, they were prone to perceiving a change in the size of the goal posts. Those who missed wide imagined the goal posts as too narrow, and those who tended to kick short imagined the crossbar being higher than it truly was. In other words, their failure caused their mind to see things differently than how they were in reality.
The same thing can happen to you when you don’t get that call-back or get overlooked for a promotion. Your brain can interpret the disappointment as you’re not qualified enough for the job, the workload is too difficult, etc. Don’t allow yourself to make excuses, even if your mind tries to trick you into it. Learning to persist through failure and continuing to projecting a positive attitude will lead to an inevitable win.
We all fail. We all face setbacks. Those of us who are resilient enough to keep trying and stay motivated end up getting the farthest in the end. If you start filling out a job application with the idea that it’s a pipedream, odds are you’ll be less inclined to make your approach as strong as possible. If you don’t take professional risks because you’re concerned about how the risk will be perceived, then you’ll never reap the benefits of true innovation.
There will always be some pushback when something isn’t a sure thing. You’ll always find reasons to play it safe when you start worrying about failure. When you start thinking this way regularly, it’s sure to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. One of my favorite quotes comes from the movie A League of Their Own, in which Tom Hanks plays the addicted and embattled manager of a professional women’s baseball team, Jimmy Dugan. In the movie the Coach has a conversation with his star player (played by Geena Davis) who decided to quit before the season was over. She said, “It just got too hard.” The coach emphatically responds, “It’s the hard that makes it great!”
Play to win. Consider all that you’ve overcome thus far in your life and career. All the risks you’ve taken and all the accomplishments you’ve earned. You went back to school to earn your degree…at the time it might have been easier to not try, but consider what you would’ve missed out on had you not applied, consider how all you have been through has defined who you are and where you will go.
You want that job or promotion? Remember that each experience helps to shape you for the greatness you can obtain.
Since 2008, Larry Doty has been appointed to various positions of leadership at Herzing University including Academic Dean, Director of Education and Educational Funding, and Senior System Undergraduate Dean. During his time at the Minneapolis campus, Doty successfully provided oversight to multiple accreditation initiatives at the programmatic and institutional level. Doty quickly developed a reputation for developing high performing teams and exceeding institutional expectations in areas such as budgeting and planning, team development, and student retention.