Steve Jobs once said that getting fired from Apple, the global tech giant he co-founded, was the best thing that could’ve ever happened to him. In Jobs’ case, starting anew removed the burdens of success that he felt at Apple and freed him to enter a new and productive creative period.
Jobs’ reflection on his career path brings to mind the old adage, “When one door closes, another door opens”—but with a twist that applies to many people trying to move on from a major setback. The key is not getting stuck in the long hallway between the closed door and new door opening. That can happen due to the piled-up mental clutter of your failures. Don’t let that happen.
Instead, learn from those failures and setbacks and let them free you to be your best. Ask yourself, “Have you had enough failure in your life to understand what success really is?”
Here, I offer five ways to learn from setbacks and find lasting success.
1. Do a deeper dive than you did last time.
Too many people take big jobs with good salaries while not thoroughly researching the company and the extent of the challenge they’re getting themselves into. You might like the thought of overcoming challenges and making the job work, but you have to do your homework and honestly assess if there will be too many headaches involved.
2. Know who you are.
What have your failures told you about yourself? Be honest with yourself. Was the position that didn't work out a poor fit? Did you overreach? Did the experience shed light on your strengths and weaknesses and what you need to be productive, happy, and successful?
Sometimes failure is a matter of simply falling short, and from that we realize where our real strengths lie for the next and better opportunity. One of the best things about failure is it can give us a clearer sense of who we are and what we want. And that realization can be energizing and inspiring.
3. Know who your friends are—and aren’t.
Your first rule should be to treat everyone the way you want to be treated. But that’s not always reciprocal. You can’t forget who treated you poorly, who you couldn’t trust, and what you learned from that. The friends you make and the work relationships that worked help us learn more about the type of people we want to be associated with. Who challenged you in a good way? Who made you think and grow as a result? And just as important is knowing the toxic types you don’t want to be around and drag down company culture.
4. Remember your survival instincts.
Even in an experience that ended up in failure, we can draw strength and confidence from memories of making the best of a tough situation. And if people blamed things on you but you gave your best effort at the time, you can build on that toward succeeding in your next opportunity.
5. Don’t share your secret.
Many people have been burned by telling someone near the top of a company their innermost desires for personal growth, future plans, starting their own companies, etc. Keep it to yourself until you’re ready to leave. Otherwise, as I was, you may get kicked out the door before you really have a plan for what’s next. I had an itch to go out on my own, but the scratch wasn’t of my own making.
As a society, we put so much focus on success. Yet failure often unlocks the door to success, and for many who learn from failure, the best is yet to come.
Chuck Crumpton is the founder and CEO of Medpoint, LLC, a global consulting firm serving medical device and pharmaceutical companies in the U.S., Europe, Asia, and Latin America. He is the author of The Jagged Journey: A Raw & Real Memoir about the Non-Perfect Path of Life & Business. He’s a featured keynote and session speaker at multi-industry events in the U.S., Europe, and Asia for global organizations.
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