Failure, Grit, Resilience

Jalama Beach, CA

It is now acceptable, even recommended to fail. This is how we learn, build resilience, and acquire grit. It sounds great ,right? Fail spectacularly and then rise from the ashes to be reborn better, stronger, and smarter.


One of my most spectacular failures was my first real job out of college. I was the kitchen manager of a restaurant in a resort town. My qualifications? Only that my best friend owned the restaurant. Yes, I had worked in food service for many years, and this was an existing restaurant with a simple menu. However beyond food preparation, I had little experience in managing people, working with vendors, coordinating with other managers.


On the bright side, I was earnest and very hardworking.


I did not even last a year and I quit. I felt terrible. I let my friend down. I worked to the point of exhaustion and yet never seemed to gain the traction I thought mattered. The fun-loving kitchen staff thought I was a humorless, taskmaster which I was at times.


I returned to Southern California. I was miserable. My failure did not seem like this wonderful growth experience. I was ashamed and unsure of myself. 


Without a real plan for the next step in my ‘career’, I stopped by my high school and visited with one of my favorite teachers. She told me about a friend of hers who was looking for someone. I made the call, set up an interview, and was hired as a retail manager for an independent toy and book store. 


I remember thinking, “ I really have no business being a manager. I suck at managing. What am I doing?”. The good news is that my new boss clearly saw something in me that I could not see. The better news is that I had learned from my epic restaurant fail. 


I learned how to ask questions. Good leaders do not have all the answers.


I learned how to delegate and recognize other people’s strengths. Good leaders hire people better than themselves. Good leaders bring out the best in their teams.


I learned humility. Good leaders are willing to do themselves anything they would ask of a teammate.


So, yes. Failures do provide wonderful learning opportunities. In my experience, it takes a little time. Be kind to yourself immediately following a failure, big or small. Surround yourself with good people. Don’t isolate yourself; this is when you lean on your mentors, friends, family. Share your story; I guarantee you that everyone has an ‘epic fail’.


In gratitude,