Don’t Let One Setback Derail Your Career Success

The Sunday New York Times Business Section had an interesting article by Peggy Payne, a successful author and journalist that contained some great career success advice.  She talked about how not getting selected for the Governor’s School of North Carolina when she was 16 motivated her to excel and has led to her life and career success.

I make a similar point in Tweet 37 in my career advice book Success Tweets.  “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it.  Don’t dwell on the negative, use it as a springboard to action and creativity.”

In other words, don’t be afraid to fail.  Fear is the enemy of self-confidence – and career success.  Most people fear failure, criticism and rejection.  It’s only normal.  We all want to feel good about ourselves.  Failure, criticism and rejection are not pleasant experiences.  They lower our self-esteem and make us feel bad about ourselves, so we often avoid doing things that we think might lead to failure, criticism or rejection.  However, if you want to create the life and career success you want and deserve, you have to have the courage to do things that might result in failure, criticism or rejection.

Failure, criticism and rejection provide you with the opportunity to grow and develop – to succeed.  You can’t take failure, criticism and rejection personally.  Failure, criticism and rejection are outcomes.  They are a result of things you have done.  They are not who you are.  We all make mistakes and fail.  We all do things that cause others to criticize or reject us.  This doesn’t mean that we are failures.  It means that we have made some poor choices and done some not-so-smart things.

Failure, criticism and rejection provide the opportunity to start over – hopefully a little smarter.  Buckminster Fuller once said, “Whatever humans have learned had to be learned as a consequence of trial and error experience.  Humans have learned only through mistakes.”

That’s why fear is the enemy of self-confidence and career success.  Take it from a career success coach.  If your fear of failure, criticism and rejection paralyzes you to the point where you aren’t willing to take calculated risks, you’ll never learn anything or accomplish any of your goals.

Don’t be too hard on yourself when you fail, or when others criticize or reject you.  My best career advice is to put your energy into figuring out why you failed and then do something different.  Here are four career success coach questions to ask yourself the next time you fail, or get criticized or rejected.

  1. Why did I fail?  Why did I get criticized or rejected?  What did I do to cause the failure, criticism or rejection?
  2. What could I have done to prevent the failure, criticism or rejection?
  3. What have I learned from this situation?
  4. What will I do differently the next time?

If you do this, you’ll be using failure, criticism and rejection to your advantage.  In Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill says, “Every adversity, every failure and every heartache carries with it the seed of an equivalent or greater benefit.”  I know it’s hard to see the benefit or opportunity in failure, criticism and rejection.  But it’s there – you just have to look hard enough.  But it all begins by facing your fear and acting.  The less you fear failure, the more career success you’ll create.

I am proud of my niece, Brett.  I’m having dinner with her tonight.  A couple of years ago, she left a good job in Florida and moved to San Diego.  She had no job lined up in San Diego when she moved.  Some members of the family thought she was silly to leave a good job to move across the country with no job.  I thought that she demonstrated amazing optimism and courage in making such a long move in such a difficult economy.  Brett wasn’t afraid to fail.  Seventeen days after she arrived in San Diego she landed a job as an account manager for an athletic apparel manufacturer.  She has since received three promotions.  I’m proud of Brett.  She didn’t let her fear of failure, criticism, or rejection stop her from pursuing her dreams.

The career success coach point here is simple common sense.  Successful people are self-confident and committed to their life and career success.  Self-confident people face their fears and act.  They aren’t afraid to fail.  They know that you fail only if you don’t learn something from the experience.  Treat every failure as an opportunity to grow and mover forward toward your career success.  Our most common fears are failure, criticism, and rejection.  Follow this career advice.  Choose to find – and use – the learning opportunity in your failures and you will become more self-confident and successful.  It’s sad but true – failure, criticism and rejection are often the price you pay for becoming a career success.  Facing your fear of failure, criticism and rejection, and acting will pay big dividends when it comes to your life and career success.

That’s the career advice I took from reading Peggy Payne’s story.  What do you think?  Please take a minute to share your thoughts with us in a comment.  As always, thanks for reading my daily musings on life and career success.  I value you and I appreciate you.


PS: If you haven’t already done so, please download a free copy of my popular career advice book Success Tweets and its companion piece Success Tweets Explained.  The first gives you 140 bits of career success advice tweet style — in 140 characters or less.  The second is a whopping 390 + pages of career advice explaining each of the common sense tweets in Success Tweets in detail.  Go to to claim your free copy.  You’ll also start receiving my daily life and career success quotes.

PPS: I opened a membership site on September 1.  It’s called My Corporate Climb and is devoted to helping people create career success inside large corporations.  To celebrate the grand opening, I’m giving away a new career advice book I’ve written called I Want YOU…To Succeed in Your Corporate Climb.  You can find out about the membership site and get the career advice in I Want YOU… for free by going to http://www.mycorporateclimb.


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