Failure as a Win

“Negative results are just what I want. They’re just as valuable to me as positive results. I can never find the thing that does the job best until I find the ones that don’t.”
― Thomas A. Edison

One of my first real jobs was as a teller with Bank of Montreal. On the application, I wrote that BMO had been “my” bank since I was a little girl. They were understandably charmed, and hired me at once.

Unfortunately, none of us knew the truth until afterward: I can’t count to ten thousand.

This is critical if you are a teller, because at the start of the shift they give you a drawer with ten thousand dollars in it, and at the end of the shift you have to say where it all went.

And I tried. Boy, did I try! But in four months of shifts, I balanced TWICE. I had succeeded at everything I had done previously, so it took me a while to believe that more effort wouldn’t help. I really, really, REALLY wanted to be good at this! And I just wasn’t.

We finally decided I had to go, and they let me resign rather than firing me, which was kind of them. And I moved on to something else.

What that taught me was, sometimes I just suck at things. And it’s OK. I’d rather be successful — we all would! — but in cases where I can’t win, things still turn out OK in the end.

So I found a field where I can succeed, and I work hard at that instead. Life’s critical lessons: sometimes if something is too hard, you’re not doing the thing wrong, you’re doing the wrong thing.

As a service to others, I now take deliberate and visible risks — and I demonstrate cheerful failure when the risk doesn’t pay off.

I don’t really enjoy public speaking, but I do it anyway, and then create opportunities for others to take similar risks. You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs! And everyone knows eggs are good for you. :-)