Why do we perceive failure as such a bad thing? This post shares my personal experience with failure and how to fail fast and fail forward.
I want to tell you a true life story. When i graduated from Covenant University in 2010, i went on to do the mandatory one year service (NYSC) for a year at Abuja and then i came back to Lagos and very quickly after the reality of the employment market in Nigeria hit me. Application after application, interviews upon interviews, i got rejected even with a 4.0 CGPA. I started to get depressed, my esteem took a hit. I started to ask myself, am i not smart? Why don’t these people want me?
In retrospect now that i have hired people over my career, taking it personal was totally unnecessary but i realize it's easier to say that now. One thing i now know being on both sides of the table is that not being chosen for a job depends on so many things that may have absolutely nothing to do with you.
Perhaps it is something specific the organization is looking for, or the decision to hire was halted, or someone internal was promoted, there are several reasons that have nothing to do with you which could be why you weren’t hired.
Clearly that story ended well, i eventually got a great job and started my journey but then, my dad suggested i take up ACCA (Association of Certified Chartered Accountants, UK) while i was job hunting. You guessed right - my dad is an accountant. I was like uhm, this is Accounting, i studied Computer Science.
In the moment i felt he just wanted me to follow his footsteps and i was skeptical, but i checked out the curriculum and certification anyway and to my surprise i loved it. Not liked it, loved it. It talked about businesses, financial accounting and analysis and corporate law, and management accounting. I imagined running a company and needing all this information!
It was 14 examination papers. Yes, fourteen and the average exam is around N30-40k, around $100 - $200 each (without study material or classes or membership fees) which wasn’t cheap. So i thought and decided, i am going to do this!
I want to tell you that i passed all papers in one sitting and i’m now a Chartered Accountant but that’s not true :)
I started writing the exams in 2012 and in 6 years, i have passed 13 out of 14 papers, some with 2, up to 3 sittings because, self studying and working at a fast paced job is not an easy mix. Do you know how much discipline and sheer force of will one needs to study with no physical classes while working for 7 years? Scouring through technical articles and past questions on the build up to the exam. Heading back to a packed schedule after the exams. All of my friends who know me know Maria is always writing an exam.
Why am i telling you this story? Because most people feel comfortable sharing their success story when they have achieved their goal and that’s great, but we should also share while we are on our way to achieving the goal to let people know while they are in the process that it’s okay to fail. Fail fast, learn and move forward.
It is easy to be this optimistic when you’re “finally successful” but you can be optimistic as well while taking the blows. For example, i wrote my 14th and final ACCA paper last year, December 2017 and i saw the results two days ago. I got a 49%. What was the pass mark? 50%. I was one mark to the passmark. 1 mark to being a Chartered Accountant. I failed.
Was i disappointed? Yes. Was i depressed and questioned myself? Yes. Am i going to quit? Hell no. I’m taking the next paper in March? Yes. Will i try to study with whatever time i have available considering my schedule? Yes.
So you see, failure is okay. Like they say, fail fast and fail forward. Just keep getting up. Keep keeping on. One foot after the other. Eye on the prize.
When next you're tempted to gloss over your failures, try to be honest. People in the process are banking on your honesty on your failures for strength. Are you going through a tough bit right now? Have you gone through this phase before? Share your experiences, i want to learn from you.
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Update: I later passed this exam and qualified as a Chartered Accountant, see post here