about my first big failure and what it meant
When I was in my 20s, I lost my job. The guy who said good-bye, my boss, did it in the nicest way. He talked about territory restructuring and other changes. The company gave me a lovely package so that I could move back to my home in Chicago. I might have tried to believe that I had no part in what happened, but in my heart I knew my job was gone because of nonperformance.
It was the first time I had failed at anything.
I’m not going to tell it was fun or that I learned a lesson then that changed my life. It wasn’t and I didn’t.
It took me a long time to even make sense of it. I was a winner, always successful. How was it that I totally missed on this one? How was it that I couldn’t seem to find a way to get to the winning? How did I get myself lost in a spiral of unhappiness that made every small loss lead to another slightly bigger one? What was I not doing or seeing?
Really I was blind to one HUGE thing.
It was the wrong job for me.
How hard I’d tried to fit myself into a space that didn’t fit me.
I bent and twisted, smashed and squished, curled and flattened, until I was walking in circles without direction. All the time that I was doing that, I was sure that my lack of performance was the problem — it was only a symptom. The problem was that I was trying to reconfigure myself to fit a job I’d taken.
We live in a time finding the right job may seem a challenge, but living in the wrong one still isn’t the answer.
Ever wonder what you bring to the world? … where you belong?
Look at what you’ve always done well, what problems you’ve always solved for other people, the things you do that other folks rely on. You’ve been successful before. Look inside those successes. You’ll find the answers have always been there.
I can say it’s so.
I’ve lived it.
All that my first big failure meant was that wasn’t MY path to change the world.
Jen Brentano says
Liz! I know exactly what you mean. For years I would get into a position and hear others say things like they know I have more to offer – I would wonder what am I doing wrong!?!? Now, I know fully the answer is it wasn’t where I belonged. I would never soar there. For me, I was meant to take lessons, wrap them up and save them for a time when I found what it is I’m meant to do and use those to support others. Great post – great awareness. Thank you!
Dan Gershenson says
I’ve been through 2 of these experiences myself, Liz, and while I wondered how I would ever emerge from them, I saw how I’ve become that much stronger on many levels. One of them was losing a job at an agency I thought I would be at forever and the other was having to leave behind an agency I started to be closer to family. Both were excruciatingly tough transitions but they truly were situations that no longer fit me anyway. It’s hard to always recognize this when you’re in that moment of difficult transition but at least in hindsight I can recognize I’m where I’m supposed to be – a much happier place.
Scott Sliver says
I nearly got fired from my first ad agency job. I was 20. I worked for an art director that poisoned my thinking about everyone around me, their role, my role, his role… He was wrong. And I learned the hard way. I kept my job and changed their opinion of me, but it took one LONG year. Then I left that job and moved to New York and got a whole new education. But it was still the same scenario. It wasn’t “them” it was me. I had to change me. Isn’t that usually the case? It was easy to blame everyone else, but I had to change. And I had a LOT to learn. Finding my fit took time. I think finding the right job may come after NOT being in the right job a few times. Learning who we really are, how we’re wired, is huge. And it just takes time. Good article!
Kat Caverly says
I have failed spectacularly 3 times so far in my career. With any luck I have at least 3 more big fails in me! With each and every failure a big opportunity presented itself; mostly because I was ready for it.
Des Walsh says
Thanks for sharing your story and the wisdom you’ve drawn from it Liz. Not the same as having the job taken from you but a couple of times I have chosen to walk away because there was clearly not a fit and I couldn’t find it in myself to do the bending and twisting, curling and flattening any more. One of the challenges I found hardest to face and deal with was about the opinions of others. And in fact those opinions weren’t all favorable. But I’ve never regretted making the moves and I learned a lot about people, myself included, in the process. As you say, it hard to see the bright side when you are going through the process. But not being true to ourselves is not an option compatible with long term happiness.
Ryan B. says
I just experienced my first great failure. And it sucked. It still sucks because I haven’t gotten my life back on track yet.
So I’ve been thinking a lot about failure lately and what it means. I really appreciated this post. You’re right that the answer is not just to accept a job that is not right. That is really what I am taking out of this, that it is so important to focus on what I can do well.