I sat in the office of the chief human resources officer internally freaking out.
“How could I possibly make a mistake that severe?”, I thought in my head. Unbeknownst to me, my facial expressions were a dead giveaway for my internal feelings. Luckily, I was in the trusting hands of a strong leader, with years of human resources and management experience. During that meeting, I obtained the best piece of advice I've received in my career thus far.
“Melissa, you need to get comfortable being uncomfortable. This isn’t the first mistake you will make in your career and it will not be your last. If it is one thing that I’ve seen from you, it is that you have never made the same mistake twice.”
Prior to this incident, I didn’t have much experience with the discomfort that comes from making mistakes. I was a strong student. I graduated with distinction from my master’s program and I had yet to take on a challenging role within my field of study. My first human resources role did not afford me the challenges that I was set to face in my future career endeavors. When I accepted my second role within the field of human resources, I knew it was going to be a challenge. Nothing I’d done thus far had prepared me for the experience. I failed more times in that first year than I had ever failed in my life, and each failure was disappointing, causing me to question my abilities and competency.
Why do we feel so uncomfortable being uncomfortable? Making mistakes? Innately, people want to do well. Most believe that mistakes are failures. We believe that failures are negative and should be avoided at all costs. Failure makes you feel uncomfortable. The challenge that I was presented with that day shed light on a different mindset. What if we embraced the feeling of discomfort? What if we took the time to analyze our mistakes and to grow from each experience? What I didn’t initially absorb from this experience was my boss’s statement that I never make the same mistake twice. What if, instead of being hard on myself and allowing the error to ruin my day, I accept my fault and turn my error into an experience that I can apply toward my growth as a professional?
I learned that it was much more important to be resilient than to be perfect. The truth is, failing means you are growing. I would not be where I am today if I was not willing to try, to make mistakes and to move forward.
I read a passage from the book, “Girl, Stop Apologizing,” by Rachel Hollis that I feel encapsulates what I speak to above.
“Not having the experience just makes you eager, not ignorant. Flip the script and force yourself to see the positive where you’ve only seen the negative. What are the advantages of not knowing, not understanding, not conquering, not having, not achieving your goals yet? The yet matters. The yet reminds us that we have a whole week, month, life ahead of us to become who we were made to be.”
Leaders, I encourage you to treat your employees, mentees or friends the way my boss had treated me. You can play a vital role in a defining point in somebody’s career that helps them continue to grow to their potential. To the young professionals scared to take that next step, I encourage you to get out of your comfort zone and explore your full potential.