My first memories of “failure” were 1) losing a game of checkers to a family friend and 2) not placing in the school science fair in elementary. I was about 8 years of age when these two experiences occurred, and I was very much upset by both. I remember crying about losing the game of checkers because I felt like I would have beat that other little girl had her father not come near us and told her which moves to make. I also remember sulking about not placing in the science fair by hiding in this round wooden table that my mother owned at that time. Even at a young age, I figured out that not getting my way, when I put my full effort to something, totally sucked.
I am sure these two instances were not the first times I did not succeed at something I put my hat in the ring for, and it definitely was not the last time I had “failed.” Though I got accepted to the HBCU of my choice, graduated within five years to receive my MBA, received numerous job offers, and graduated magna cum laude, failure (or the sense thereof) was right around the corner again when I was accepted to only one law school I applied for and wait-listed for another one. Through my tears, my mother encouraged me to still attend and do my best. The efforts that got me good grades in college did not reap the same benefits for me in law school and I faced the possibility of not graduating due to one too many C’s on my transcript. Here I was, again, failing at what I had planned in my mind to be another successful matriculation throughout my educational history. No part of law school was a success for me in my opinion.
The sense of failure did not stop there. I failed at obtaining work immediately after law school, failed at launching a partnership with a fellow attorney as she chose a different route in her career months after we both poured a lot of time into the infrastructure of the impending law firm, failed in being able to pay my rent some months without the assistance of my mother at the age of 26, failed to land the “dream job” I interviewed for in 2007, failed at staying gainfully employed NUMEROUS times, failed at SO many relationships and failed at realizing that failure is not the end. Instead, I have come to learn, failure is most times the beginning of your journey to what is destined and/or designed for your life.
At this point in my career, I recognize any type of undesired response, reaction, circumstance or event not as failure, but direction. Ok, I did not land this particular client, BUT, let me see if I can do better or do more for the paying ones I do have. I’m also not working in my major. You know, the one I am currently paying upwardly of $100k+ back in student loans for, much to the agony of my parents and loved ones who wanted me to be a doctor instead of a kindergarten teacher.
Hmmmmmm, so I did not receive the promotion that I was up for, despite my boss basically ensuring that it was mine. And yes, I have emptied my entire life savings to start a business that I am going to have to close soon due to a lapse in capital to sustain it. If you can relate to any of the previous examples of “failure”, then you understand the hurt, shame, embarrassment, anxiety and lack of confidence that can come along with it. But here is the good news, the sense of failure is temporary as long as you keep going. It is important to realize that we do not always get the desired result we work for, and that is ok.
Failure, is just a test. It is that thing allowed into your personal and professional spaces to cause you to grow and appreciate what you do have. It is a definite that, if utilized positively, can put you in places and set up highly favorable circumstances that you may have never even thought of, but for that thing having gone horribly wrong.
Failure in your career will hit you either in the beginning or in the end as you are planning for your retirement, but it will inevitably happen. When failure does make its unwelcome visit to your door, cubicle, or your suite, push up your sleeves, arm yourself with a prayer and keep pushing. The only way failure can affect your career negatively is if you do not recognize and implement the positive results that can and will come from it.
Rashida Maples, Esq. is Founder and Managing Partner of J. Maples & Associates (www.jmaplesandassociates.com . She has practiced Entertainment, Real Estate and Small Business Law for 10 years, handling both transactional and litigation matters. Her clients include R&B Artists Bilal and Olivia, NFL Superstar Ray Lewis, Fashion Powerhouse Harlem’s Fashion Row and Hirschfeld Properties, LLC.