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Devin Arrigo

Failure is a Subtle Sign That You’re Doing Something Right

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Devin Arrigo
Devin Arrigo
 2021-03-28

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If you allow failure to define who you are, then you’re probably not going to push through the setbacks needed to achieve success.

When I was a junior in college, I received a call from a recruiter at one of the Big 4 accounting firms. To this day, I’m convinced that the recruiter could hear how big my smile was during our conversation.

I immediately called my parents to let them know the good news.

“I got the internship!” I yelled into the phone.

Since my freshman year of college, I’d studied with one goal in mind — to get an internship with one of the Big 4 accounting firms. 5 years before, my brother had the same one and achieved incredible success because of it.

I wanted that too.

After 3 years of hard work, countless hours in the library, and even more networking to squeeze my way into the door, I finally got the internship.

My path was now set in stone. Nearly all interns receive a full-time offer to return after graduation. When I got that call, it felt like an 18-wheeler was lifted off my shoulders.

As a junior in college, I had a great job lined up before I even graduated. As the summer quickly approached, I was incredibly proud and excited to get started.

Setbacks Prepare You for the Comeback

I went into the following summer feeling super confident. And because of it, the internship went great.

I learned a ton, met some incredible people, and gained a better understanding of what it means to contribute to a larger vision.

However, when all of my intern friends received their full-time offers at the end of the summer, I was left twiddling my thumbs.

It turns out a full-time offer wasn’t so ‘set in stone’ after all.

I felt empty inside. All of the work I put in during my three years of college was a waste. This job is what I’d been working for. And now, knowing that I didn’t get it…well, I felt like a complete failure.

However, looking back on it now, this wasn’t a failure but rather a small setback on the path to finding a better job and greater success. Had I not experienced this setback, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

A Failure is an Event, Not a Final Destination

When I got a call from the coordinator at the end of the internship, my heart dropped. I had been expecting to hear, “Devin, we want you to back!” but instead, I heard something completely different.

Rather than accepting it and moving on, I began to define myself by this failure. It ate at me, and I couldn’t let it go.

Why don’t they want me? What did I do wrong?

I racked my brain for anything and everything that I could have done better throughout the summer. I was in a perpetual state of feeling worthless, and I couldn’t escape it.

On the outside, I carried this persona of, “I didn’t want the job anyway”, but deep down I knew the truth.

I’d just spent the last three years working on getting the job, and I failed. I felt like shit, and there was no way of hiding that from myself.

After several weeks of wallowing in my sorrow, I finally jockeyed up and went to LinkedIn to start the search once again. I spent nearly 2 hours looking at jobs — some that sounded awesome and others that didn’t.

Nonetheless, as I continued to scroll, job after job, I came to a powerful realization. I’d just spent the last couple of hours looking at hundreds (probably thousands) of jobs. That gave me the perspective I needed.

This is just one job. There are loads of others out there. Another job will come.

Not getting the full-time offer I wanted was a singular fail. An unfortunate event. It was not something that defines who I am. I was still the same person, albeit a little bit stronger after going through that experience.

As a prolific entrepreneur and motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar, once said:

“Failure is an event, not a person. “— Zig Ziglar
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Failure is a Subtle Sign That You’re Doing Something Right

We’ve all failed before. And chances are really good that you’re going to fail again. The tricky thing about failure is that it sometimes pushes us in the direction of quitting rather than rolling our sleeves up and working through it.

When I got that call from the internship coordinator telling me that I didn’t get the job, I was ready to throw in the towel and just live with my parents. I felt defeated after working so hard only to fall flat on my face.

However, after the initial feelings of wanting to give up, I got back into the saddle and started the search for jobs once again.

As Eric Thomas once said:

“There ain’t no shame in thinking about quitting. The shame is in quitting. So if you thought about it, there’s nothing wrong with that. But whatever you do, don’t let that thought become a reality. — Eric Thomas

Thinking about quitting is okay. Actually quitting is not — and it’s the only sure-fire way not to achieve your goals.

Failure and setback are the results of a lack of skill, not a defect with you specifically. Failure indicates that you’re on the road to mastery. You just have to keep pushing past setbacks and roadblocks to learn and grow.

Don’t be discouraged when you hit bumps in the road. Understand that these experiences are designed to help you become a stronger, more resilient person. They are not designed to make you quit or give up.

As Thomas Edison once said:

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

If you don’t give up, you can’t ever fail. Failure is a result of quitting when things get hard. If you keep pushing forward, “failure” will just be a temporary setback on the road to success.

Final Thoughts

A failure is an event, not a final destination. It does not define who you are, only who you once were.

You will fail on your way to success. That’s a fact. Use failure as a beacon that you’re moving in the right direction. If you keep getting back up, if you keep showing up, you won’t ever actually fail.

As New York Times best-selling author Gena Showalter once said:

“Giving up is the only sure way to fail.”