The Difference Between Failure and Being Unsuccessful

Difference Between Failure and Being Unsuccessful

Let’s talk about failure.

Failure isn’t something we discuss openly, yet it’s something we all experience. It’s not fun to talk about or go through, and this post may already be bringing to mind some memories that sting. But let’s just get it out there. This post might turn out to be some positive thinking, motivation-type thing that I need to tell myself during this period of my life. But maybe, hopefully, it can help or inspire others.

There is a difference between failure and being unsuccessful.

There is a difference between failure and being unsuccessful. Click To Tweet

We ALL fail

Every single one of us. And if you really believe you’ve never failed, then I am sorry for you, because you probably live a really boring life. Whether you failed to take out the trash this morning or you tried to get a new position with an exciting company and they offered it to someone else, we all fail. It’s a part of life.

We have all been there.

Failure does not define us

After I lost my job, I felt like it was written all over me. “Unemployed. Fired for incompetency.” In fact, I’m meeting a former coworker for lunch this week and she offered to invite some of my friends from my old company and I declined because I’m feeling self-conscious about my unsuccessful career change right now. Everyone at my old job was so supportive of my radical career change, that I’m embarrassed that I didn’t succeed.

It turns out that self-consciousness is unnecessary. Here are two things I’ve learned lately:

  1. Many or most people in your life are going to be supportive through it all. Just as my friends, family, and coworkers were rooting for me at the new job, they are rooting for me now as I look for work. I can’t think of a single negative thing anyone has said to me about losing my job. (At least not to my face.) And this has been the case with pretty much all of my failures. The time I backed into a tree? FAIL! Sure I got a lot of jokes about that, but friends sympathized with the trials I went through getting my car fixed and sorting out the insurance. They even gave me rides to pick up my car.
  2. People really can’t tell! Even though I felt like I had a huge sign over my head that said “incompetent” (that was the term used in my termination letter as the reason I was fired. It stings a little) people seemed to just see same old crazy cat lady Heather. Although I shared my news on Simply Save, I didn’t publicly share it with many people right away and it took awhile to trickle around. During that period, people really just treated me like me, even though I felt very different inside.

But it sort of does define us

Actually failure does define us in a way. A positive way. Every failed experience is a lesson to be learned. It helps us grow! It can make us stronger, more aware, resilient, adaptable. (However, it has yet to make me a better driver.) It teaches us to experience and cope with feelings and emotions such as defeat, regret, and remorse. Had I not felt the regret of all the money I blew on deployment, I may not have become so passionate about getting my finances in order later in life!

One of my favorite sayings is, “Fall seven times, stand up eight.” It’s pretty much the first thing I told myself when I lost my job. It keeps me positive and focused, and reminds me that life comes with failure, but the true failure would be staying down. Get up again.

I would not be the person that I am today had I not made the mistakes I have made. And I like who I am today.

Every failed experience is a lesson to be learned. It helps us grow! It can make us stronger, more aware, resilient, adaptable. Click To Tweet

Change the thought process

Being fired stung. Being fired for “incompetency” and seeing it in black and white stung even more. My career change was so public in my professional and social circles. So many people were supportive, even writing letters of recommendation! My background check was so thorough that people in my life had to put a lot of time into it for me. I felt like I had failed. I failed these people who went out on a limb for me.

I was embarrassed. When people first learned that I was giving up a secure, well-paying job to start a new job in a totally different field with less pay and a crazy work schedule, they thought I was a little crazy and may have been a bit skeptical. When they understood that I was pursuing a dream, they were incredibly supportive. I took a risk and gave up the good thing I had going for me. When it didn’t work out I felt foolish.

But I didn’t fail.

I’ve stopped referring to my career change as a failure. I was unsuccessful at my career change.

As one friend put it, “I planned, I sacrificed, and I leapt.” I didn’t go into it blindly and unprepared; I was at a place in my life where I was able to take the risk.

What would have been a failure? If I passed the opportunity up and went my whole life wondering. If I passed it up out of fear. If I stopped chasing my dreams and pursuing things that make me happy.

I did not fail. I was unsuccessful.

When you feel like you’ve failed, change your thought process. To not try is to fail. Trying something takes courage. Whether or not you succeed, you’ve likely learned something new and grown as a person. That is not failure.

When you feel like you've failed, change your thought process. To not try is to fail. Click To Tweet

The Nitty Gritty

We all fail. It does not define us, but it does help us learn and grow and develop into the people we are today. We can change our thought process and look at what we have learned and the doors that have opened, and see that in the grand scheme of things, we really have not failed. Be brave. Go after your dreams.

Difference Between Failure and Being Unsuccessful

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21 Comments

  1. Great post, Heather! It is admirable that you took a leap in your career change. You took your shot rather than staying in a “safe” job. I don’t think you’ll regret it years from now. Rather, you can be proud for giving it your all, and getting back up to prepare for the next adventure.

  2. I love this. There is so much value to get from failing at something–if we are open to learning from the experience. Really great post!

  3. I think you should find the person who actually put “incompetent” into a letter and TP his/her house. Karma-wise, totally okay.

    Like you said, we carry our failures with us, but most people can’t see them. And if they see that something went awry, they’re far more interested in seeing the next step you take, not dwelling on what went wrong.
    Abigail @ipickuppennies recently posted…Things a specialist shouldn’t do: laughMy Profile

    • Haha, I think because I’m a veteran, they had to pick a status for termination in accordance with the Veterans Preference Act. I assume there were only a few options for them and “incompetency” was the best fit…but still!

  4. Great post!!! I don’t believe in failure. we learn fro the negatives and we grow 😉

  5. I love your candor, Heather. Indeed, failure is the F-word that prevents most people from taking that leap from what is comfortable and relatively safe toward what really moves them. Kudos to you for believing in yourself, even after making the leap and not landing smoothly on the first try.
    If, at first you don’t succeed, try and try again!

  6. Absolutely inspiring blog Heather! Truly hit home for me in a very BIG way! Not to mention how brave you are for sharing your story!

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