How Unemployment “Failure” Can Lead to Success

28 Mar

Recently I was reading an article in the NY Times about how following your bliss may end in disaster. The article profiles two people who followed their creative passions to start their own business, which eventually led to financial ruin. It is a cautionary tale about how if you become too emotionally invested in your business, and aren’t able to accept failure, you won’t be able to make prudent business and financial decisons.

But, the title of the article is misleading because although the businesses did fail, and there was significant financial hardship to the business owners, the failure was really a path to success. As I was reading the article, I couldn’t help but think of all of the things they had learned in starting and running a business. The business owners both experienced incredibly difficult and painful times when their business failed, and they were financially devastated for a period of time. But, they both made it through those difficult times.  The business failures weren’t the end of their careers, and I am sure that experience of the business failures directly contributed to their current success. Following their bliss didn’t lead to failure, but rather failure was part of the journey to success.

What does this have to do with unemployment you may wonder? A lot really. Although unemployment is not failure, it sometimes feels that way. It sometimes feels like you have failed in your career and this is it. And, as with the business failures, there is likely financial stress that comes with being unemployed or underemployed. What you may not realize is that just as with a failed business, you are learning so much from being unemployed or underemployed, and this “failure” is part of your journey to success.

Really, you might ask? I am learning a lot even though there are days where I don’t feel like getting out of my pajamas, and I sometimes have to force myself to socialize with working people? Yes, you are learning so much more than you know. You are likely learning how to be more frugal, how to market yourself (a work in progress for me), and more importantly how strong you really are. If you’ve followed my previous posts, you might also be learning new technology, new hobbies, or other skills like blogging. But, really the most important thing you are learning is the intangibles that you get from “failure” that will help you be successful in the future if you are open to the lesson.

I think being unemployed could take you in one of two directions. It could make you risk averse with the fear that you never want to go through this experience again. I certainly have days like this where I want to find the safest, and most recession-proof career and go down that path.  Or, this experience may take your in a more risky direction, recognizing that you will make it through this time, and you will be better off for it. Taking risks may not seem as scary as it did when you had a stable job. You may start to envision a different life for yourself and realize that your “failure” of unemployment may lead to a different type of success. Admittedly, I still waiver between wanting to find a “safe” job, and branching out in a new direction. Fear leads me down the path of wanting a “safe” job.

But, fear is never a good reason for making a decision. Fear of failure is not going to lead you down the right path and get you to the career that you really want. Failure is part of the process, and a failed business or being unemployed is really just part of the path to success if you so choose it. Use this time to pursue what you really love to do and don’t let fear hold you back. There will be additional “failures” in the future, but it is all really just part of the path to success. You can only really fail if you don’t try. Larry Smith has a great Ted Talk about how “you will fail to have a great career” and all of the excuses that we use to not follow our passions.

This “failure” of unemployment can lead you to success, but only if you are open to the lesson, and you are willing to set aside the fear of failure.  Be brave enough to follow your passions, and accept that “failure” is a route to success.

photo credit: Jeffpro57 via photopin cc

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8 Responses to “How Unemployment “Failure” Can Lead to Success”

  1. Kelly March 28, 2013 at 1:42 pm #

    The reality is that “safe” jobs are often the ones that pay the bills. One’s job does not have to be the main source of a person’s identity or happiness. Of course, if one is young, with few responsibilities (and often, parents to fall back on), the calculation may be a bit different. But for a breadwinner who needs to pay the bills, taking a “safe” job should not be seen as a failure.

    • Lisa M. March 31, 2013 at 9:30 pm #

      Kelly, thanks for your comment. I think that people have different perspectives on whether or not a job should be something that you really love to do. I don’t think it should be the main source of a person’s identity, but I would like to enjoy what I am doing since we spend so much time at work (at least when employed:).

  2. kumadorian March 28, 2013 at 6:11 pm #

    This is an interesting post you have got there.

    • Lisa M. March 31, 2013 at 9:31 pm #

      Thank you kumadorian!

  3. Vishnu March 29, 2013 at 4:03 pm #

    Yes, if we can learn from and during unemployment, we can use this process to launch our next project, next business, next big idea or next job. We do tend to associate employment with self-worth. I’m more of the everything happens for a reason mentality, Lisa, so when I’ve not been working, I’ve learned a lot of skills, made a lot of contacts and shifted my perspective on my work to help me better a better person and professional.

    • Lisa M. March 31, 2013 at 9:37 pm #

      Vishnu, thanks for your comment. Yes, I do think we tend to associate employment with self-worth and I am trying to break away from that. But, I think it is more than just self-worth. Our social structure is really built around employment. I have been volunteering, and learning new skills, but it still feels so odd (and bad) when I see my neighbors leaving for work in the morning or seeing the evening rush hour. What I miss the most is really the social aspects of being part of a “team” at work.

  4. Rebecca Fraser-Thill April 2, 2013 at 7:42 pm #

    This is a terrific post. You cover so many thoughts that I’d like to expand upon…and perhaps I will get my act together and comment upon your post on my site sometime soon. Unlike Kelly, I actually think that identity and work are strongly interrelated, and that it’s not a bad thing if they are. The greatest successes arise at the intersection of passion and ability, in my opinion, and using one’s identity to lead the way to find that intersection is a powerful approach to take. That said, yes, money does matter…

    • Lisa M. April 3, 2013 at 10:07 pm #

      Thank you Rebecca! I agree that identity and work are interrelated, but also that money does matter. It is a balance trying to make sure that both passion and some degree of financial security are met.

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