The power of failure

Although I am not a new professional, I am the newest member of the staff of my current office (about 14 months on the job). I blurted out a statement in a meeting the other day that was truly off the cuff.  But, it has since been swirling in my mind.

A portion of our staff were interacting with our Student Ambassadors, and we were giving them our bios and info about what we do in the office. I went through my normal intro of education and professional background. I outlined my primary responsibility of internships. I noted a secondary item of social media utilization. Then, out of nowhere, my mouth says, “as the new guy, I also take it upon myself to be entirely willing to fail. So, I’m the one doing these new events that go down in a blaze of glory.”

I’m not sure why I chose to say that. Partially it was a self-deprecating moment, as I am wont to do. Partially it was meant as a lighthearted moment. But, there was a kernel of truth in there.

Although I don’t mean to imply I’m never disappointed when things don’t work out, I do find it exhilarating to try new things. And with that must come the occasional failure.

Case in point, last fall my office held a “Career Week” of events. Having interacted with the RoadTrip Nation folks via Twitter, I thought inviting them to campus for a screening would be a great end to that week.  I convinced my colleagues. We rolled out the red carpet, did a bunch of marketing and booked a 300 seat auditorium in the Union.

One student showed up.

That’s right, one.

Now I was entirely embarrassed that it occurred, and I found myself compelled to repeatedly apologize to the RTN folks, who (to their credit) didn’t seem phased at all. But, in truth, I’m still very glad we tried it.  Although it didn’t even come close to being a “success,” I am still driven to try new things and experiment and give my best shot to things that aren’t guaranteed to succeed.

I’m fortunate to have a supervisor and director who were also happy with the experimentation and not disappointed with the response (or if they were, they hid it very well), and that’s part of how I know I’m in the right place. I’m glad I work with people who encourage new attempts and activities.

Will we repeat the same event in the same way? Of course not. But, we attempted, we failed, we learned, we grew. And isn’t that what education is really all about?  It’s been attributed to many over the years.  But, it deserved repeat here:  If you’re not failing, you’re not trying hard enough.

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