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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Getting Ahead

Why You Need to Fail at Something This Week—Anything at All


Have you ever done something new and exciting, looked at it later, and thought to yourself: “Oh my word. This is terrible.”

You feel a prickling of shame, a sigh of “What was I thinking?” and then a shrug of “Oh well, never again.”

As a part of my business, I periodically have to shoot professional video. I used to think it was all glamorous makeup and fun times, but I’ve since realized that it’s a lot of sweating under bright lights and wondering why my hair looks so flat all the time.

In short, it’s stressful.

When I first started doing this, I didn’t use a professional. Nope: Instead I used my iPhone and terrible overhead lighting. Suffice it to say, it did not look awesome. This photo is real, as is my decision to wear sunglasses. (Guys, I don’t know why that seemed like a good idea.)

After witnessing this mess I made, I graduated to a professional videographer—but I still hadn’t mastered my hair. It was questionable at best.

Now, many videos later, I film in a studio and hire professional hair and makeup help. (Plus, I pay for animation!)

It was a long road to get here. And when I look back at my old videos, I sort of can’t believe I let other people see them. (No, seriously, I was shooting one of them in a closet. Why?)

With that said, I never would’ve gotten here without starting there first. And that brings me to one of the hardest lessons I’ve ever had to learn:

You are not perfect. (I can say this, because I also am not perfect!) You are rarely born with the ability to immediately master something, with no practice or learning.

And that’s OK.

I get emails all the time from folks who are terrified of making a change in their jobs or careers, because they are terrified of messing up.

I understand, but I also have good news: Failing is human.

But, instead of naming it failure, let’s call it what it really is: An epic lesson on the road to success.

To get anywhere, to become masterful at anything, you’ve got to start from somewhere. And for many of us, “somewhere” often ranges from terrible to OK.

And this fear of being terrible at something, well–it keeps you stuck. Often completely paralyzed from doing anything.

So, what if we made a pact: This week, we’ll all try something that is scary in our work. Something that potentially might not turn out okay. Something that we’ve been thinking about, but putting off.

Maybe it’s signing up for a new course, or a new online program to get certified in something.

Maybe it’s volunteering for something new at work, a project or position that seems challenging.

Maybe it’s just trying out a side gig, practicing a little bit, so that you can improve your skills before you put them out in the world.

Maybe it’s sending that first application out, or asking for that first informational interview, or asking for that first new client to work with you.

But! Here’s the critical part: Once you do it, if it doesn’t go quite as planned, don’t think: “Oh no, I failed.”

Instead think: “Well that was an interesting lesson. What do I want to do differently next time to improve?”

So, ask yourself right now what you’re going to learn this week—and tell me on Twitter. (Oh, and if what you want to learn is how to find your passion, here’s a fancy-pants free workbook to help you do just that.)