When failure can be an inspiration…

Failure-Is-Not-Final1So a couple of months ago, my friend (let’s call her Stacey) was picked at her workplace to be on the list of a potential scholarship to a Japanese (or was it South Korean) University to do a Master’s degree in Urban & Regional Development. Her initial foray into the field of Urban Planning after University was almost by chance as she had been an unpaid-intern in a local council, moved on to a contracted urban planner in a bigger urban council and finally had become a pay-rolled employee in one of the nation’s premier urban & physical planning organisations. Unfortunately, she did not make the cut for the next phase of the interviews and when she called to tell me about it, I was reminded of one or two things that can surely define your chosen path and its possible destination.

Firstly, I am not the smartest guy in the room, or for that matter in any room that I enter. So to put it bluntly, there will always be that person (or those persons) who are just way much smarter than you are all the time. No beef, no hatred, but they are just so much quicker than you are at almost everything

Secondly, if you have lived a little and are beyond the age of 25, you will know and attempt to understand that not everything goes your way in the way that you planned or wanted it to go. Truth be told, you may have attained a few or many of the things that you had planned to achieve, but more often than not it has been at a hustle of some sorts.

Back to Stacey’ story

When we talked again after her initial update of failure, she seemed a little held back about what she was going to do next. I asked her if this was the first time she had failed before. She of course said NO! I took it upon myself to tell her about a certain brother of my late friend Babzo also called Babso but this one is still alive and a Medical Doctor by profession. We met at a watering hole near home and when we started talking about politics and business, we zeroed in on Economics. Unlike me, Babijo had not done Economics at undergraduate, but he said that when he was doing his M.Sc in Pharmacology and Health Services Research, he could not believe how failure had pushed him to try harder. He told me that after leaving Mbarara University’s Medical School as a medical doctor, he wanted to do his Masters in a leading University in America and applied to over 45 Colleges of Health Science and it was the 37th School that gave him a 50% paid scholarship. He accepted it right before the 44th school offered him a full on scholarship. He told me that those first 36 rejection letters inspired him to keep trying till he got into a good school. He excelled at the masters and was given a full PhD scholarship at the University of Washington’s Department of Global Health and is now more passionate about Economics, Health Economics in particular. Our discussion on economics was centering mainly on the struggles that the Bank of Uganda had to incur when elections money was released into the economy in 2010/2011…

The attitude that comes with failure is always a sombre one and one mixed with questions about whether or not you are worth achieving anything that you really want to go-get. One thing that differs from those that actually do achieve what they want and those that dwindle in mediocrity is the dust yourself off attitude and try again.

We all know that person who has achieved a lot more than us and our peers have in the same amount of time and we always want to ask, but how come Horatio is getting that far so quickly and the usual stories come up… He is connected to the other family | his family is/ was rich | he was/ is very lucky | he was in the right place at the right time…


Michale Jordan’s failure quote

On further probing, these same achievers will most likely be like you (or me) and not be the smartest in the room, but are the ones who have maintained and in most cases upped their attitude to incorporate a failure-is-ok-element. Talk to them if you can and ask them the points at which they have failed and you will eventually believe that your stories and experiences of failure are so miniscule in comparison to theirs…

“If you want to ACTUALLY achieve something great, treat rejection as a normal step in the process. Expect it. Manage it. Take action and the next time you get shot down, remember that means you’re just getting started.”

Ramit Sethi – Author, Blogger I will teach you to be rich

As you read this, I encourage you who is reading to re-evaluate all the times you have failed at something and learn from whatever mistakes have been made. Use them to improve your chances for the next opportunity that you might face and this time….

Smash it!


Take Aways:

  • The first “NO” is always where the discussion starts.
  • When aiming for a large goal e.g. a like a new job – ALWAYS visualize what would happen if you SUCCEED (e.g., get the new job) vs. what would happen if you FAIL (e.g., fail the interview).
  • Do this before you get the results, which is an emotional time.
  • Do not give up at all. Keep trying . It sounds ridiculous? OF COURSE you give up when you get rejected.
  • Well, sometimes it’s true, and society certainly tells us to suck it up and move on. But when it’s some committee making a decision, you don’t have to let that fly.
  • Plan ahead for what you’ll do if you succeed or fail — it will help you stay focused when times get tough.
  • NEVER do the committee’s job for you. It is THEIR job to reject you, not yours. It’s not your job to reject/accept you, it’s someone else’s. Let them do their job.
  • Ask people who have achieved a lot more than you have in the same amount of time and… ASK THEM HOW THEY MANAGED SO FAR. They should be able to ask you a few questions that you are not asking yourself and living say by day…
  • Everybody wants to associate with the fellow/ lady when he is seen to be an achiever, but few will remember or even want to be around him/ her in the trenches…
  • Use this to your advantage.

And yeah, Stacey applied to one of our local Universities and is currently doing her Masters degree…

By Edmund Kamugisha

Edmund KamugishaEdmund is the Engagement Director at BLEGSCOPE®, and has over 9 years of management consultancy experience notably in MSMEs, FMCG companies and in the service industry. You can follow him on twitter: @edmokmg

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