Failure’s Not Flattering
Three weeks ago I received some awesome news, I was nominated for a Notable Award. First reaction, epic! There was one small problem, I had no idea what a Notable Award was. I did some research and it turns out it’s an award given to young Canadian professionals who exhibit a series of qualities ranging from team building, entrepreneurship and volunteerism.
Fast forward to two weeks ago, I received an email from the Notable team saying I was a finalist. Holy shit, a finalist! In a short amount of time I went from not knowing about Notable to being a finalist among hundreds of other nominees. It felt incredible to be recognized for my work, especially since it came from my peers. Last week I went to the ceremony, I sat with my wife Sarah, and I felt great! I had this thing on lockdown, I knew I was going to win…or so I thought.
I lost and I immediately felt my ego bruise.
Therein lies the issue that many of us struggle with; ego. We are all egocentric creatures whether we like to admit it or not. The sooner you admit it, the better you’ll be able to handle yourself in situations where bad news presents itself.
I try my best to not be an egotistic person, but, like most people, I slip up sometimes. When leading a team it’s important to ensure that you are acting on behalf of the best interests of the company you’re trying to build, not your own motives. Execs and leaders should always be acutely aware of their own ego. The best idea should always win, not the person with the loudest opinion or the most senior team member.
When something doesn’t go your way, or you mess up on what you think is an important life test; stop and take stock of what’s important. Focus on the present moment and analyze what’s making you feel this way. Steve Schlafman, Breather’s lead investor from RRE recommended a book to me right before I left on my honeymoon; The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. There was one quote that stood out, and it’s something I look back to when I’m stressed, anxious or aggravated.
“Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make the NOW the primary focus of your life.”
Accept what has happened, learn from it and move on. Failure is uncomfortable and it’s supposed to be. The ability to bounce back can only be done by being uncomfortably honest with yourself. Whether it’s getting a less than desirable score on the GMAT, and thinking your life is over (which I did btw) or not winning an award. Look at what went wrong, and figure out why. Ask yourself, “is this something I want to attempt again? Can I learn from this and apply the lessons to other aspects of my life?”
In the case of the GMAT, not going to business school was one of the best decisions I’ve made. Instead of learning about marketing and technology in a text book, I took the challenge of building a mobile department from scratch and ended up with a 5 million dollar a month product and 20 million visits a day. This was the job that launched my career, and a learning experience that could not have been provided by a school.
Sometimes opportunity can be born out of failure, but only if you’re willing to acknowledge what went wrong and learn from it.
Giving up, sulking, blaming others for your failure won’t work, it’s just a a band-aid for your ego.