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“Thank you for your interest. Unfortunately we have decided to move forward with another candidate at this time.” Gmail delivered my gut punch in clean arial font. It was the first job I had applied for in over two years. A seemingly easy get, I felt I had a great rapport with the co-founder of the online law school tutoring site I was applying to. I was magna cum laude in law school, an editor on Law Review, empathetic, conscientious, how could they refuse?
Well, they did, quite flatly. My response of “please keep me in mind for other positions” was met with crickets. I fell into a deep funk. All of a sudden, my life choices were thrown into stark relief. Was I right to leave the law to stay home with my kids? Do I have desirable skills? And most importantly, if I can’t get a little tutoring job that I only half-wanted anyway, how in the hell am I going to succeed at my loftier dreams? Finally, after wallowing a bit, I realized I wasn’t asking the right questions. I needed to ask, what can I learn from failure?
Learn From Failure: Follow the Arrows
The thing was, I really did only half-want that tutoring job. I applied because I started to panic about money. So much more money was going out than coming in. Despite that being part of our two year plan, I felt guilty for not contributing financially. I thought tutoring was something I could do on the side to pull in some extra cash.
But I actually don’t have time to be tutoring on the side. This tutoring job required 20-30 hours a week or more of time. That is the exact amount of time I have when my children are sleeping and I am still awake. It would be fine if tutoring was my passion. But it is not what I want to do with all of my free time.
Tutoring was the wrong direction. I had to follow failure’s arrows to find the right direction.
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Choose Love Over Fear
What I need to be doing with my free time is building the career I see sustaining me financially, emotionally and spiritually for the long haul. I need to stick to my long term goals. The tutoring job would have prevented me from finding something I really love to do. A year or two down the line I’d look back and think, Damn. I wish I’d started my dream then. I’d be stuck with a job that helps financially but doesn’t meet my other needs. Golden handcuffs are so hard to shed if the only escape is into the unknown.
Failing to get the tutoring job helped me evaluate what I really want from a job. I’ve worked since I was 16 years old with only rare breaks and held over a dozen jobs. In all that time, I’ve only had one job I loved. We spend 1/3 of our lives working. To make a choice about how to spend that much of my one wild life out of fear is unacceptable to me. This time, for the first time in my life, I will choose a career out of love.
Plus, I don’t need to fear because…
The Universe Has Your Back
I have a syndrome. Perhaps you do too. It’s instant forgetter syndrome. Every time I get in a tight spot, I instantly forget about all the previous times I successfully extricated myself from tight spots. I forget how I got out from under $250,000 in student loan debt when I could barely afford mac & cheese for dinner. I blank out on how we made it through the financial panic and hormonal turmoil of my husband losing his job every time I birthed a baby. I lose track of how I navigated my way through a severe health crisis, coming out stronger on the other side.
The thing is, we’ve all been through many, many tight spots. But each time we start to feel cornered again, our instant forgetter syndrome explodes. Like a solar flare, it blocks our view of the fact that our track record for getting through tight spots thus far is at 100% success.Our track record for getting through tight spots thus far is at 100% success.Click To Tweet
In each of the above situations, the universe conspired with my hard work, determination, and support from my loved ones to carry me through. External uncontrollable events both put me in that tight spot and pulled me out. And as if from a crucible, I emerged stronger and grateful for the experience because I learned so much from each. I just have to remember to stop panicking and follow those arrows to learn from failure.
Each failure is an opportunity to do something else, something more your own. Embrace it. Learn from failure which direction you should be going, instead of which direction you feel like you’re “supposed” to be going.
What have you learned from failure? Let me know in the comments!
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