Why we should celebrate our failures
“Get fired — get fired by a company. Go make mistakes. Go throw yourself at as much as you can possibly learn. You’re going to find yourself in places you don’t belong, but you’re going to learn so much from those experiences”.
Sophia Amaruso, #Girlboss founder
Eesh! If there’s one thing bound to make most of us recoil it’s the thought of just point blank just failing at something. But the idea that we (or anyone) is doing everything perfectly and all of the time, is a myth most widely perpetrated within our own heads.
Look at the people you most respect and admire within your industry — they’ve all been wrong a lot along the way too, but look how they grew and got better because of their failures, not in spite of them.
For one thing, failure is a good indicator that you’re delegating tasks and not micromanaging your team as Facebook’s VP Product Design, Margaret Gould Stewart points out: “I had a long-time manager who said to me once “Sooooo, what’s going off the rails in your team?” And I was shocked, like, how dare you?! Who have you been speaking too?! It’s all hospital corners, there’s nothing to see here!” And he said (and I will never forget this): “Well if everything’s going perfectly, then you’re probably micromanaging your team.””
Beth Comstock, Vice Chair at General Electric, actively asks her team for feedback on things she’s not done so well because “sometimes you’re failing in ways you don’t even know — the team didn’t want to tell you”.
In order to be a better manager, she told us she actively approaches her team and welcomes them to share her shortcomings with her: “One of the things I’ve gone to recently is asking “tell me one thing I don’t want to hear” she told us. “Usually people are put off by that question so you’ve got to give them an advance and say: “you’re coming back tomorrow and I want you to tell me one thing that you think I could have done differently or could have helped you with.”
By doing this, Beth points out how much more reactive she can be to problems, dealing with them in real time and making far more meaningful decisions as a result.
For Sophia Amoruso, a woman who bounced from overnight success with her Nasty Gal Vintage business to bankruptcy, and all the way back to international acclaim after creating the globally recognised #Girlboss movement with over 10 million Instagram uses, failure and success are all about how you define, and redefine them.
“Get fired — get fired by a company. Go make mistakes. Go throw yourself at as much as you can possibly learn” she advises. “You’re going to find yourself in places you don’t belong, but you’re going to learn so much from those experiences”.
Sophia also illustrated just how instrumental her failures had been in shaping her current position. “Everything great that’s ever happened to me, every lesson I’ve ever learned has been because I took risks” she told us. Risk taking is a scary prospect for many people but Sophia stresses how so often, there’s very little to loose. “I mean, that’s much harder to say every year that I get older” she says, “but you have much more to lose if you don’t take risks.”
Fear of failure can be scary and unnerving, but what would it look like if you chose to be brave?…
Role Models hosts candid conversations with inspiring women and is a bi-weekly podcast and event series motivating the next generation of global leaders.