There’s No Shame in Failing

By Charlene Li, founder of Altimeter Group, author of Open Leadership, co-author of Groundswell

CTU Professional Development with author Charlene LiIn my experience, success doesn’t come from fitting in or playing small. Rather, success is a product of standing out and taking a stand. Sometimes, that means making mistakes or stumbling a bit. You won’t always get it right. You’re human. Failure comes with the territory. Don’t let your fear of failure cause you to miss opportunities for you to succeed.

I recall once, as a high school student, wanting to earn extra money. Rather than take the usual path of my peers, which involved dishing out fast food or babysitting, I accepted a job as a door-to-door salesperson, peddling knives of all things! I was terrible at it. It was hard. I didn’t like it. But I persisted because I knew that despite my dislike of selling it was a skill worth pursuing and mastering.

I share that experience not to encourage you to sell knives door-to-door, but to help you see how stepping outside of your comfort zone can provide valuable learning opportunities that can propel your future success.  As you look ahead toward your future, consider these ways you can stand out, potentially fail, and yet ultimately succeed.

Pay attention to the details. I’ve learned that small things make a big difference when you add them up. Consider the details that might help you stand out. That may mean always sitting in the front row of your classroom or at a conference session you’re attending. It might mean wearing a bright orange scarf every time you go to a professional networking event. What small actions can you take to help you get noticed?

Make meaningful connections. President Obama is often said to make people feel like they’re the only person in the room. In today’s highly distracted world, that’s a valuable skill: to make people feel like they matter. Consider how you can add value to a relationship in a similar way. Remember, it may be a subtle gesture – from how you make eye contact to the sincerity you show when you interact with others – that helps make a relationship more meaningful, and memorable.

Take chances. When I decided to embark on my short-lived career as a door-to-door salesperson, I took a chance. It was far from easy and it wasn’t fun, but the possibilities that experience created were innumerable. Dip your toes into the unknown. You may be surprised at what happens. If it’s not exactly what you expected, chalk it up as a lesson learned and move on.

Persist and excel. When it comes to standing out, always do something worth doing, and then do it as well as you can. For this, you’ll need the self-awareness to know what is worth doing and the confidence to say “no” to the things that aren’t a good fit for you.

Be true to yourself. If you like to wear plaid with polka dots – do it! Of course, you know I’m not just talking about your fashion. My point is that you are unique, so express it, celebrate it and live it. Your path is uniquely different than others who may be on a similar journey. Don’t be afraid to turn right, when others are turning left.

Bestselling author - Charlene LiCharlene Li is founder of Altimeter Group and the author of the New York Times bestseller, Open Leadership. She is also the coauthor of the critically acclaimed, bestselling book Groundswell, which was named one of the best business books in 2008. Charlene is a graduate of Harvard Business School and received a magna cum laude degree from Harvard College. Read her blog or follow her on Twitter.

Stay in the know! Subscribe to CTU’s blog and receive fresh updates directly to your inbox. Join us!


Image Credit: Flickr/Emily Laurel

Copyright © 2016 Colorado Technical University (CTU). All rights reserved. No information may be duplicated without CTU's permission. The CTU logo is a registered trademark of Career Education Corporation. CTU cannot guarantee employment or salary. Not all programs are available to residents of all states. Programs vary by location and modality; see catalog for details. Financial aid is available for those who qualify. See the Accreditation & Licensure section for information on the agencies that approve and regulate the school's programs, including relevant complaint procedures here. Find employment rates, financial obligations and other disclosures below.

Privacy Statement Legal Terms and Conditions Student Disclosures Sitemap Student Safety Contact Us

 (855) 230-0555

Terms and Conditions By providing your mobile number, you agree to receive text messages from Colorado Tech via its mobile text message provider.  You may opt out of receiving messages by texting the word STOP to 94576, or simply reply with the word STOP to any text message you receive from Colorado Tech. While CEC or its mobile text message provider will not charge end users for receiving/responding to promotional messages, depending on the terms of your mobile phone plan, you may incur a cost from your mobile service carrier to receive and respond to any promotional text messages (standard messaging and data rates/fees and other charges may apply).  Charges will appear on your mobile phone bill or will be deducted from pre-paid amounts.  Current participating/supported carriers are: Alltel, AT&T, Boost, Cellcom, Cellular One, Cellular South, Cincinnati Bell, Cricket, Element Wireless, Golden State Cellular, iWireless, Metro PCS, Nextel, nTelos, Plateau Wireless, Sprint, T-Mobile, US Cellular, Verizon Wireless, Viaero Wireless, Virgin, and more.×