Failure Is Not Possible
I’ve been asked this by several employers recently: “What would you do here if you knew you would not fail?”
Not fail?? Not possible…
When it comes to my career, my path has always involved becoming successful enough at a current role that I’m propelled into the next opportunity. What kind of path would I have if something I did failed? Do I trust you and this company enough to risk my current job and my future career path to run the risk of failure? Would you support me enough to ensure success?
More often than not, I chose not to take that risk, simply out of the fear of failure.
Outside of work, I tend to take on all sorts of personal challenges, because the only person I risk failing is myself. Fifteen years ago, I took up running. With those stubborn extra 5-10 pounds I was desperate to lose, nothing was working. Runners to me were those stick skinny people with 5 percent body fat who can run for hours and never break a sweat. THAT was never me. Certainly *I* could not be a runner. Failure certainly seemed possible.
But running intrigued me. Maybe I could look like that if I took up running. If I failed, I guess I would at least be no worse than when I started.
A few friends talked me into running in a local 5k. I trained for what seemed like years, starting with mostly walking, sprinkled with some running. By the day of the event, I could run almost the entire distance without stopping to walk. I crossed the finish line with my family and friends cheering me on and a pancake breakfast waiting for me.
If I judged myself by the standards I had set for what a runner was, did I fail? I still had those extra 5-10 pounds (running makes you hungry! Who knew?!?). I was definitely not super skinny with low body fat. I could not run for hours and not break a sweat.
On the surface, it sure sounds like a fail to me, if you look at the reasons why I started. If my job had told me to “become a runner”, I would have said to myself that maybe this job wasn’t for me. I certainly didn’t feel qualified to call myself a runner.
Today, however, I consider it one of my milestone accomplishments.
I ran farther than I ever had in my entire life. I showed my then young daughter what you could accomplish if you set your mind to it. I earned the first (of what would be many) 5k participant shirts that I could wear proudly to remind myself of that accomplishment. I met new friends and became closer to my current friends through their support and help while training for the 5k.
What I didn’t know at the time is where that one event would take me in life. Running has become my antidepressant, my coping mechanism when life is stressful, and my outlet for travelling all across the country. I have now run countless 5ks, 10ks, half marathons, and eight full marathons in eight states, including New York this past fall.
I could consider all of this a success because of the love and support I have received along the way.
We usually don’t think of our work environment as a place where we feel loved and supported, but why not? We would certainly take more risks there if we felt that way. To achieve great things requires a certain amount of risk. I’ve never worked for anyone who didn’t want their employees to achieve great things.
But at Metal Toad, the belief is also in the love and support you get when you want to take those risks. I have just begun my tenure here at Metal Toad, and in my first conversation with Tim, our COO, he emphasized the Metal Toad belief of running the company based on love rather than fear.
Employees should not feel fear of failure. They should feel loved and supported when taking risks towards great accomplishments.
Want to try a new programming language? Sure! Looking to move into a different career path altogether? Sure! Even if that path takes me out of Metal Toad someday, we’re okay with that too! And we’ll help you!
Sure, you will hit some bumps along the way. Making mistakes is part of life. Love and support are what get you past those bumps and on a path to success. To quote Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, “If your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough.”
Metal Toad will be here to get you a new pair of metaphorical running shoes, stock the break room with some snacks, help you when you reach those bumps in the road, and give you the biggest high five when you cross that finish line.
Failure is not possible.