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Failing Can Also Lead to More Success

Failing Can Also Lead to More Success

A Harvard MBA, New York Times bestselling author, award-winning blogger, and one of the most popular TED speakers in the world, Neil Pasricha dazzles audiences with ideas and frameworks that skyrocket happiness into the stratosphere. With infectious enthusiasm, heartfelt authenticity, and a “what works” authority, Pasricha draws on the latest research in happiness to increase individual performance and create a more positive and productive workplace.

In his latest column for The Toronto Star he elaborates on how failure and rejection can be a track to greater successes:

A funny thing happened a couple of months ago.

I signed myself up to fly to New York and speak to The Shine Movement, which hosts a series of inspirational variety shows and is a cool non-profit I love.

Since I was going to New York anyway I thought it’d be a great opportunity to reach out to a number of people I work with and try to set up some face to face meetings. They’re always more effective and so many of the big players in media, publishing and speaking are based down there. So I threw out five detailed invitations — told them I’d be in NYC, told them I had the day open, told them I’d love to meet.

And you know what happened?

I got four rejections.

Four out of five.

“Sorry, we’re busy” or “We can’t move other meetings” or “We’d love to see you but . . . ” or, the best excuse of all, from a speaking agency: “We’re hosting the Obamas that day.” (That was their actual response!)

I got four rejections from five invitations. And these were all people I knew! They weren’t cold calls. They were warm existing work relationships.

You can probably guess how I felt.

Turfed. Passed over. Disappointed. Disillusioned. My brain suddenly went on overdrive and I started asking myself some of those big questions in my head. “What am I doing?”, “Am I even in the right job?”, “What is my job?”, “What’s wrong with me that people won’t even meet with me?”, “Do I really suck this bad at what I do?”

So I sulked for a couple of days.

And then the mental reality settled in.

That reality is that the reason I got so many rejections is because I was trying a lot of new things. I was pitching a podcast to the world’s largest podcast company. I was seeking a lunch with my editor to discuss the book I wanted to do after my next book. I was hoping to talk to the speaking agency about the talk I was planning for next year.

What’s the learning?

When you take lots of risks you get lots of rejections.

When you take lots of risks . . . you get a lot of failure.

Failure is correlated with success.

Fail more? Succeed more. Fail less? Well, nothing wrong with that. Just means your growth rate is slower. A high failure rate means you’re trying new things and breaking new ground. It means you’re poking your head up and out of the dirt path and looking around. You might get Whack-A-Moled. But just think what you could see!

In my last column on monthly dashboards I talked about how I challenged myself to do one weird project a month. I said I do that because I’m looking for failure. And that’s what I’m expanding on here. I’m trying to say that we need to learn to take failure not as a result, but as a signal.

Think of rejections and failure moments like those little red ribbons tied around trees on a nature trail.

They just mean you’re going the right way.

Are you failing enough?

Neil Pasricha/The Toronto Star/December 2017