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Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Failure is a Positive
A couple of weeks ago, Phil Mickelson, the hottest golfer in the world at the moment choked coming into the stretch at the US Open. All he needed to win the tournament was to par the 18th hole. Instead, he had a brain cramp and bogeyed it, finishing second. Rarely do we see professionals screw up like the rest of us. When they do, there is usually a ready excuse.

Team players can always fall back on the “we” such as “We just couldn’t execute today.” Golf is different, though, because it’s a single person sport. Still, there are all kinds of factors that Mickelson could have called into play to explain his performance, or lack thereof – weather, poor clubs, a cold, etc. Mickelson didn’t offer an excuse, though. He stood there and admitted he screwed up. In fact, he said, “I’m an idiot.” He suddenly became a double-hero. He was a hero in the first place because he showed that one of the best players in the world can have a crappy day on the links just like the rest of the world. What really put him over the top was that he admitted failure instead of trying to justify poor performance.

When was the last time you talked to your boss and admitted failure? Failure in and of itself makes us all wince. We don’t like to think about it because it’s painful and uncomfortable. Admitting failure publicly seems even more perilous because then not only do we know we screwed up but everyone else knows too. What do they really know, though? That you are human? That you make mistakes just like they do?

Failure is not necessarily a bad thing. The bad thing is lying about it, not being honest about it, and not learning from it. The fact that Mickelson could stand there on global television and admit to failure is a huge sign of high integrity. If he can be honest in that situation, you can be fairly confident he will be honest in other ways.

There is an old interview question that still gets used quite a bit - “What was your biggest failure?” Job seekers spend a lot of time trying to think this one out ahead of time and have a good pat answer. I suggest the next time you are asked that by an interviewer you answer with a question of your own “I have a ton of failures. Can you be more specific about which one you’d like to hear about?” The fact that you admit to making mistakes automatically communicates integrity.

An added benefit to admitting when you’ve messed up is an easy spirit. You can relax because you don’t have to constantly worry about covering up your mistake or justifying your choices. You don’t have to worry about someone finding out about your goof and ruining everything for you. Admitting you made an error gives you the opportunity to move on and start concentrating on learning from your mistake and fixing the problem. Real progress can’t be achieved until you learn from the mistake and implement what you have learned.

Resume writing is something that changes over time. I look at resumes that I have written in the past and I always see things that I want to change based on the changes in the market and changes in the needs of the employer. Very rarely, we write a resume that misses its mark. When that happens, we admit it, go back to the drawing board, and start over to come up with a better resume that will achieve its goals. It’s not a matter of being right – it’s a matter of integrity.

November 2005 / December 2005 / January 2006 / February 2006 / March 2006 / April 2006 / May 2006 / June 2006 /


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