Jo talks about failure and the lessons to learn by making mistakes.
I suffer from a fairly debilitating condition: perfectionism. Hang about, I’m not saying I’m perfect. I’m about as perfect as Miley Cyrus is a feminist (oof, topical), but I quite often feel that I should be.
I had to achieve and achieve hard when I was younger: only top of my class would do, or captain of sports teams, ambitions of being a Doctor or CEO etc etc. By the age of 23 I’d never seriously failed at anything (except tennis: hopeless). Then I entered the real-world. The academic safety net I’d grown up in was gone.
Suddenly, I was failing every day. Little ‘I don’t know the answer to that’s or ‘Oops I forgot to do that’s. I had no textbook to fall back on like I did at uni and it knocked me sideways.
Months on a big project getting little things wrong on a daily basis drove me bonkers and I started to freeze when I had big deliverables or decisions to make, so afraid of getting them wrong. Then I had my appraisal. And all was good. Peachy in fact. And I learnt Valuable Life Lesson #1: Everyone fails all the time, no-one knows all the answers, no-one is perfect. Resilience is one of the best qualities you can have in the workplace, far more useful than a desire to be constantly 100% correct. Motivation and hard work too.
Hindsight now allows me to see that during that challenging period I learnt more than at any other stage of my life. It stretched me and pushed me, and getting things wrong equipped me with the knowledge needed to get things right next time.
A very successful colleague of mine told me he got where he is today by failing. So I’m prepared to fail, but when I do, I’ll fail fast and get back up again.
Words by – Jo Delaney
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