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The Positivity in Failure

Craig is a longtime friend of my brother, Alex, and the two go way back! Though I have not had the opportunity to get to know Craig in his young professional years, I’m thrilled that he reached out to share his story. I love his mindset on how we can all find the positivity in failure and know you will too.


Everyone loves success. That’s something I’ve come to think that we can all agree on. We all want to be the first to the finish line, get the highest score on an exam, and be the next person to receive a promotion. There’s nothing wrong with that and I think we can all agree that it feels incredible. However, the staffing world has taught me one lesson that I always believed was true but didn’t see it come to fruition until I entered the professional world. To be more specific, the role I find myself in as an engineering recruiter for a staffing agency primarily focusing on customers within the United States Department of Defense. In this role, I have learned there is always a greater lesson to be learned and a greater net positive to be gained with failure rather than success.

I like to draw a lot of analogies and find lessons from things that I know really well and have a passion for. Sports, music, film, standup comedy, amongst others. Think about your favorite actor, athlete, or musician. Think of that one individual (or maybe several individuals) that you admire and care about. I’m sure it wouldn’t take much effort for you to recall very specific and intricate details about some of their greatest achievements and moments of success and triumph. Those are the fun moments, the ones that make us feel incredible, and probably the ones that we accredit some of our own achievements. However, think about that same person whose triumphs and greatest moments you know like the back of your hand. Think what events proceeded that. I’m willing to bet that there was a moment not too long before that was an unbelievable failure in whatever their line of work may be.

Something happened to them that made them feel so awful and devastated that may have just crushed their passion and will completely. For example, Hall of Fame Quarterback Peyton Manning began his career with a 0-4 playoff record and found himself a former top draft pick at the age of 26 without a taste of postseason success.

Long before he’d ever heard the concept of Breaking Bad and donned the now-famous glasses and shaved head, it’s safe to say esteemed actor Bryan Cranston wasn’t staring at piles of fan mails and interview requests from A-List Hollywood directors. In 1993, he was playing one-off villains in the Power Rangers television series.

How did both of these lives and careers change and take off? How does someone go from the lowest of lows that you can experience and find ways to stay persistent and fight through adversity?

I like to think there’s a positive in almost any situation that comes your way in life. A few horrible outliers of course, but with the majority of things in your life that occur, I believe they have positive lessons or takeaways that can be found in it. To me, those positive takeaways you can find in the hardest of times and misfortunes are what can define your career path and how you can write your own legacy as you begin your career. These kinds of moments of failure occur across all areas of industry. However, those of us in the staffing and recruiting world understand just how often they may occur and especially how they may occur at no fault of your own. When a candidate you’re representing gets passed on by a hiring team, when a budget falls through on an account you’ve been recruiting on for weeks – that is a failure. You didn’t achieve your goal. You lost. But…that’s okay! It is, I promise you. It means you’re human and that the world is imperfect. It’s not just you.

So, where do we find the greatest net happiness in a situation like that and how do we set ourselves up for the future? You have two options:

1. You could be upset with the adverse circumstances and allow those circumstances (often outside of our control) to negatively impact us moving forward and create opportunities for us to commit uncharacteristic mistakes. That’s not the ideal option.

2. We could also stay calm in moments of failure. We’re all human. It is going to happen to every single one of us at moments throughout our lives, especially in our careers. There is no need to make a loss or moment of failure more disappointing than it needs to be and let it affect us negatively. There’s no reason to be harder on ourselves than we need to be.

Take a deep breath, calm down, and ease your mind. Try to assess the loss and gain an understanding of why we lost. Ask questions and reach out for help when necessary. Failure is natural, failure is human. Find whatever it is that gives you a moment of peace or can give you a laugh. I’ve always found a moment of solace and ease in a saying I’ve stolen from one of my idols that I emulate. Another NFL Quarterback, Aaron Rodgers. “R-E-L-A-X. Relax. We’re going to be just fine.” The losses are the worst moments of our professional lives, the moments we dread. But in those moments, the best thing we can do is understand that this is the lowest that we will ever be and that we can make the most out of these opportunities by not being any harder on ourselves than we need to be and finding out what we can take away from the situation that will leave us feeling as best the situation as we can be, rather than the worst.

We’re learning all day and every day as we go through the triumphs of victory and agonies of failure in our lives as young professionals, defining who we will become. Our greatest testament to who we are as people arrive when we are faced with our largest amounts of adversity. These are the moments that define who we are. Do yourself a favor. Calm down. Take a breath. Look around. Ask the questions you need to ask and do whatever it is you need to be to achieve the greatest net happiness and set yourself up for the greatest opportunity for success

Connect with the Author: Craig Cohen

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