While there are many tips and tricks to become a successful individual, and there are many successful people who offer their tips and tricks (I was just in FedEx today looking through a bookshelf covered in “My Success Story” novellas written by people whose names I have truly never heard of) what I believe is most often disregarded are the bumps in the road that keep you from success: your failures.
Speaking as someone who finds value in her successes almost to an extreme, I can be the first to admit that a failure can completely devastate me. Heck, I still lay awake at night thinking back to when I stumbled over my words during a high school theater audition, something that truly has had no impact on my life since that very moment; but then again, that’s what most of our failures are, just bad, embarrassing moments. Our failures don’t have to define us, not if we don’t let them. Instead, failures are lessons that teach us how to improve. Whether that’s an improvement in a job, one’s writing, studying techniques, or even in relationships, failures are simply lessons.
This past semester my internship search started off on the rocks. Despite applying to nearly twenty internships by the end of March, I hadn’t received any interviews. I felt like a failure, and eventually reached out to a trusted mentor. After reviewing a cover letter of mine, he asked if he could be frank with me. My hands got sweaty, and my heart pounded as I let out a choked, “Yes”. As you can figure, it wasn’t pretty. He ripped into it. It’s not that he was cruel about it, just sincerely honest: the way I was writing my cover letters was setting me up for failure. I ended up hearing back from three agencies that next week, but I couldn’t help and wonder what other opportunities I could have created for myself if I had known then what I knew now.
Yet, everything worked out in the end. I now have an internship I love in a city I love; but for a while I felt as though I couldn’t bounce back from the mess I thought I had created for myself. Now, though, I know how to write much better cover letters, cover letters I’ve even gotten compliments on. The reality is that I wouldn’t have learned that lesson if I hadn’t accepted my failure, and not only accepted it, but learned from it.
I dare say that the majority of people in the public relations/advertising lines of work are successful, type-A-leaning individuals. We pride ourselves on our wit, creativity, and intelligence; so when we miss the mark it can feel as though we aren’t enough. That is far from the truth. Without our failures, we’d have nothing to learn or grow from. So embrace that mistake from last week – it’ll only serve you better in the long run.