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Failure Is Inevitable - and Invaluable

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Failure Is Inevitable - and Invaluable

"I started my legal career at one of the world’s largest law firms on Sept. 17, 2001. I was supposed to be an M&A lawyer, but after the 9/11 terrorist attacks I was shifted to the corporate restructuring group. Planes were grounded and financial markets closed. The economy was still reeling from the dot-com crash. No one knew what was going to happen next, and companies were putting contingency plans into place, which in many cases meant preparing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

It was intense, and I was unprepared. This was my first real job. I had not taken a single class in law school about bankruptcy law, and everyone in my practice group was so busy that there were few opportunities to ask questions or get feedback. It was textbook trial by fire.

The next four months were a blur of all-nighters and overwhelm. I had too much work, and most of it was way beyond what I was capable of, or at least what I thought I was capable of, at the time.
It took everything I had to keep my head above water and my wits about me, which meant I had nothing left for anyone or anything else. I kept telling myself—and others, such as my wife whom I barely saw—that things would get better, but I didn’t know that to be true.

Eventually they did. The world and the markets calmed down, and things took on a more manageable cadence at work. I got my head back above water. Things started clicking. I settled into a routine. I learned how to approach and solve problems. I became more organized and productive. I became a better lawyer.

At the same time, I made lots of mistakes along the way. One of the biggest was not stopping from time to time to understand and appreciate the progress I was making. I’d move closer to my goals, but each new stage I reached became the new normal, and I’d move on to the next goal. I was moving ahead, but it didn’t feel that way.

The point is, in the moment, it’s easy to fixate only on your struggles and failures if you never look back at how far you’ve come. If you take the time to look back, you’ll realize that the good things didn’t happen despite the bad ones; they happened because of them. Put another way, the only way to succeed is to fail..."

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