Today was like any other day. Nothing too exciting, nothing too depressing, overall a pretty level day full of networking and making my way all over the streets of New York City. An email alert goes off of my phone, I check it. I’ve recently been applying for a slew of positions within the UX field and the latest application has just been rejected.
No matter who you are or what your life looks like, the feeling of being told “no” always strikes a place deep within your body. You see the email, your heart speeds up. You open it, read it carefully, see the words “we’ve decided not to move forward with your candidacy” and that sharp feeling cuts through you to your deepest part of your soul, or rather your ego. Then, you close your phone, continue walking, and begin to shower yourself with reasons on why they didn’t choose you or how you just had a massive failure.
I can almost feel the wave of depression creeping over my shoulder. I plead with you not to give in to it. It is only your ego showing you the road to a life less fulfilled.
The Implication of Failure
What is a failure? Seriously contemplate that one for a minute to yourself. Try to pick apart a situation in which you felt like you “failed” and actually define where the failure was in the situation. Was it when you didn’t pass a final? Or was it when you crashed your first car into someone on the highway? Life for you might be very different if you had different results in both situations but upon closer inspection, did you actually fail at anything? Absolutely not, you learned to study on weekends because you need that “A” in aerobics and you stopped looking at your phone when you were driving on the highway.
Something strange actually happened during these “failures” in life, we took a piece of that experience and we learned from it(at least I hope so). We learned how to be more successful at life, we learned who we were and who we wanted to be and who we didn’t want to be from then on. Your “failures” led you to success.
UX and Growth Mindsets
Prior to my introduction to UX design, feedback was a hot knife through my heart. How could something I made, built, and crafted be anything less than perfect? Maybe you weren’t looking at it from THIS angle, try again and don’t insult my ego with your well informed thoughts.
In the UX circle, “growth mindsets” is a term that is thrown around like a hackie sack at a Phish concert. People will say it in regards to just about anything but, there is a good reason it is championed amongst the UX community. It’s a pathway for success for not only your designs and research, but your life.
Going through the UX design process and putting out deliverables was truly an exercise in controlling my ego in order to better myself and my designs. Overtime, something strange began to occur. The feedback I was offered began to fuel my passion for design and create a space where I once saw failures, began to turn into immense opportunities for growth. Needless to say my life is entirely different because of this.
Carrying the Weight of Your Failures
Full disclosure, I am writing this article to myself, a reminder if you will, of my own personal growth and how my “failures” have impacted me personally and helped me grow. These low moments in life have the capacity to stop you in your tracks, that is, if you let them. I invite you to inquire into the possibility that these failures were not failures at all. They were actually successes in a different deliverable.
My experiences with feedback and criticism in the UX community showed me how to take my ego and trash it in order to see the possibilities instead of the failures. Just as your beautiful designs have room for others to give feedback and make them even more glorious, so do you. As a human. Those failures, thats life’s way of saying “this can be done differently”.
I argue that your failures are bricks that you can build the steps to success with or, carry on your back. Failure is truly an ingredient of success, not the antithesis of it. Failure and success are not enemies nor rivals, but rather partners leading to one another. Without one you cannot have the other, nor should you aspire to. After all, if you never failed, your successes would have no room to grow to their full potential. You would have no room to grow to your full potential.
Fail Fast, Fail Often, Fail Forward
There are more speeches on how failure is good for you out there than there are people to listen to them but, honestly look at the failures in your life. Are they bricks you wish to carry around with you, or did you choose to build a few steps to the next place in your life? I’m asking you to stop carrying them around with you and lift yourself up to something new for yourself. That rejection email? Great! You now know where you are not working and you can focus elsewhere. No one liked your design? Perfect! Start looking for inspiration and taking the feedback that you were given to grow your style into something you didn’t know you were capable of.
Don’t avoid these failures and don’t settle inside of them. They are not you. They do not define who you are or how you live your life. They do offer you an opportunity to understand where you want to go from there and how you can do that. Don’t run from them, run into them and use them as a step up in your own human development.
I didn’t mean for this article to become a huge wave of positivity or motivation. I am deeply invested in driving home the point that a “failure” is just a component of the recipe for success. It’s necessary and crucial to life, design, and really anything else you may do that’s worth your life. Take those bricks off of your back and start building your staircase to success for yourself.
Congratulations, you didn’t get the job. The next one might be yours though.