Column: At 25? Embrace failure


Recently, a bright young person asked me a great question – “What advice would you give yourself at 25?”

After a short pause, I answered – “Fail faster and a lot more.”

Like many young people, I was obsessed with achievement, earning more money and moving up the corporate “ladder”. As a result, I woke up every day and carefully followed a path that was heavily focused on avoiding risk.

This approach led to a conservative and steady rise in my career. At 33, I had never been fired, received virtually zero negative reviews and had yet to experience any significant failure.

Unfortunately, I had come to the realization that I didn’t enjoy my job and had no idea where my career should go next. Worse, I had ridden a wave a constant success and was nervous about taking any chances.

I did it anyways and at 33, quit my job, used our savings and started my own firm.

During the first 90 days, I made more mistakes than I had in 33 years. Since then, I have made bad hires, taken on the wrong clients, lost tons of money on bad decisions and even dropped an “F” bomb in front of a crowd of hundreds of insurance agents (I doubt I will be invited back).

Every one of these mistakes was painful, but I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.

The simple truth is that any meaningful success or breakthrough in your life – personal or professional – absolutely must be preceded by failure. Minor mistakes only lead to minor improvements.

I am not suggesting that everyone quit their job and follow their dream to open a brewery.

However, I do recommend that if it has been a while since you’ve felt the sting of a bad choice, you’re probably not trying hard enough and missing out on a great opportunity to improve.


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