Defined by failure - How failure fueled my improvement

February 27, 2020

personal

I am going to go with a more personal blog post today. This is something that I have wanted to write for several years now. Better late than never is what people always say, right? I’ll keep it short since there isn’t too much to talk about anyway.

In this post, I am going to talk about the period of failure that defined my career.

I really struggled in my first role as a Software Developer after finishing university. No matter how hard I tried, I could not make sense of the problems I was facing. I managed to get a bit better over time, at least in my own opinion anyway.

Alas, after some feedback and modest strides in improvement. I was let go towards the end of my probation period.

This really broke me. I mean, I managed to hold it together until I had to leave later that day. But it didn’t take that long for it to really hit me.

I had failed. As I finally took steps into the real world, this was truly the first time I felt real failure.

But life goes on. I needed to get back on the horse, as they say. After some time, I found a new position.

There was a stark difference between how I felt after being let go, and now, at the beginning of a new journey. But, in the back of my mind, it was still there. The feeling of not meeting the bar, not having fixed my flaws and the need to prove that I was in fact, good enough.

I let these thoughts drive me. I made the advice and criticism I had received before focus me. And, over time, I improved. It became clear to me that I did indeed have flaws and really needed this kick up the butt to force me to focus on self-improvement.

Eventually, the end of my probation period came up. This time around, I passed. After spending the last 6 months working to improve myself, it was great to have confirmation that I had done so.

Moving the clock forward to when I started another new position. I didn’t come in with all the same worries as I did previously. They all left me, except for one. The fear of not being good enough and the need to prove myself. This drove me to continue to improve and do my best.

When I started yet another role sometime in the future, it was exactly the same. I had to prove that I belonged alongside these other great engineers. Actually, since I have now caught up to the present, I still make sure that I’m proving myself to my colleagues.

All of this story is a bit of drivel that I wanted to get out of my system. I wanted to write down the thoughts that I feel have driven me for a considerable time. If I did manage to wind some coherent point into my writing, then you will already have a good idea of what this conclusion will look like. I have been defined by my failures. One failure was so significant to me that it fueled my desire to be good enough. In fact, to some degree, I think it still does fuel me. I do not think this little voice in the back of my head is good for me. Nor, do I believe that it is a cancer to remove. I allow it to push me past the line when I don’t think I can cross it. But, I have forced it to evolve. To better serve what I need now. I no longer need to prove that I am just good enough. I now want to show what I can do.

To you, yes you, the person reading this post. Please take away one thing, from this somewhat self-absorbed biography I have written. Let your failures power you instead of weakening your resolve. Let them provide you with valuable lessons. Let them drive you to success in the future. Everyone suffers from failures and mistakes, and there is no way to abolish the awful feelings they bring. How you respond to these situations will play an influential role in how you grow throughout your career and, more generally, in life.