On Failure

Yesterday, I was dismissed from a great job at a great company with great potential. Six months ago, I was dismissed from a great job at a great company with great potential. Two times in a row, I’ve been rejected, dismissed as “not a good fit” which in some ways is saying, “not good enough”.  Startup pace is quick, if not brutal. So today, here I am, back at what seems to be Square One, trailing behind the offshoots of engines that will jet off to greatness without me. By most standards, I’ve failed. But by at least one standard, I am encouraged. Defeat presents an opportunity to grow. Richard Nixon, a man who weathered a lot of turmoil, said that learning to survive a defeat is when you develop character. Scoff all you want about Nixon being the last person to know a thing about character, but he’s got a point.

“Ultimately what matters most is resilience–the ability to quickly rebound from failures, indeed to see failure as a stepping stone to success.” 

– Arianna Huffington

That’s not to undermine the shame and embarrassment I feel. Being let go sucks. Being let go twice doubly sucks. When you think about it too much, you go crazy, believing your life is just pedaling against the current: one step forward, two steps back. You descend into all sorts of belittling comments and emotions. Heart-wrenching pain that leads to tears, sobbing, louder sobbing, and mind-blowing cries because heck – – rejection hurts.

But amid all the pain, there is a voice – small, quiet yet certain – that knows this is all necessary. After all, what is good without bad? Happiness without sadness? And success without failure?

The windows in my living room overlook the corner of a busy intersection humming with people rushing to their destination. It’s a perfect encapsulation of New York City. I usually scarf my breakfast in plain view of Kate Moss, whose Rag and Bone ad is plastered on the building across the street. Her frozen smile stares at my 99-cent Cinnamon oatmeal sprinkled with too much brown sugar. Her perfectly symmetrical face simultaneously captivates and infuriates me. I imagine her passing gentle judgment, with my asymmetrically cut strawberries, crumpled shirts, and pants squeezing too tight. “Nothing tastes better than skinny. Get it together, Lynne. Don’t fuck up today.” Perfection can be motivational.

Today, I looked out, expecting her gaze. Instead, I saw an assortment of black flyers advertising a weekend party. One of them had already been scribbled on. How quickly perfection had been replaced! I was reminded of the Augusteum in Rome, once the center of the empire only now to be a collapsed monument waiting for a reconstruction that will never happen.

My ego is bruised but has learned its lesson. Ruin is the road to transformation. Life is chaotic, bringing changes that nobody can anticipate. So, don’t take it all too seriously. Fall, but get back up. A job is a job, and life moves on. Like a fish out of water flopping about, I’ll find another place to swim.

“The Augusteum warns me to not get attached to any obsolete ideas about who I am, what I represent, whom I belong to, or what function I may once have intended to serve. Yesterday I might have been a glorious monument to somebody, true enough–but tomorrow I could be a fireworks depository. Even in the Eternal City, says the silent Augusteum, one must always be prepared for riotous and endless waves of transformation.”

– Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat Pray Love

To the next wave.

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3 responses

  1. Kesy

    Good morning my dear Lynne,
    I thought this verse would encourage and support you during this time of “post-failure” 🙂 That still voice that reminds us that suffering is necessary is the same voice that comforts us throughout the suffering. Take heart!

    Proverbs 24:16 – For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again,
    But the wicked stumble in time of calamity.

    March 21, 2013 at 2:03 pm

  2. I was just in Gainesville yesterday touching on this topic in conversation. Reading this, I can’t help but think honestly how much you inspire me because at least you have these ongoing experiences, you’re learning, you’re moving. I hope of course you can diminish the hurting – we don’t need too focus on that too much.

    As always, a great post.. take some time for yourself, Lynne! Can’t wait to hear what next opportunity you find.

    March 21, 2013 at 4:14 pm

  3. Amy

    Lynne, this may seem strange to say in a comment on a post about failure, but

    I am so proud of you.

    I don’t see that failure as a failure at all, but rather, a necessary step that needed to happen in order for you to move on to something even better. Believe me, I know the pain of rejection (who doesn’t?), but every person who’s ever achieved greatness has failed along the way.

    Anyway, this post was beautifully written. I am so happy to see a new post on your blog, and I’m looking for many more wonderful ones to come!

    March 22, 2013 at 5:28 am

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