Failure, empty advice and mentorship: We’re looking at it all wrong

Let’s talk for a second about a “spooky” topic that scares away too many people.

The idea of failure.

I resent the idea that when something goes wrong in business, it’s considered a “failure.”

If you work hard, take chances and learn from mistakes, then you don’t fail. You know what we should call the situation? Life as an adult in the business world.

No one gets it right the first time (or probably the second or third, either). But when the approach doesn’t work, it’s too harsh to call the outcome a “failure.” It was an honest attempt, and with each try you move closer to the winning formula.

Don’t shy away from a project because you might “fail.” The only “failure” is to stand still and NOT try at all.

You know what I don’t like? Advice that doesn’t come with instruction.

For instance, “leadership gurus” often say, “You must do the work you’re passionate about.”

Well, duh. We all want to spend time doing what we love. But HOW do we find that work?

Here’s my instruction, nice and simple.

  1. What do you like to do? Make time (don’t “try to find time”) to pursue it. Like, every week for at least two years. I’m serious — go all in or don’t bother.
  2. As you move along, share your progress and thoughts online. By writing it down, you will grow as a person and begin to define your area of expertise.
  3. Monitor your web traffic and look at the topic(s) people read most. Over two years, the audience will tell you where you provide the most value (and solve the biggest problem). But only if you write a lot (every week, I mean it).
  4. Focus on the niche (where you provide the most value) and leave the other topics alone. Be great at one thing and one thing only. The narrower, the better.
  5. At that point, you will have aligned your passion with solving a problem. And that’s the holy grail of careers. You’ll wake up every day to do what you love and improve the lives of others.

What could be better?

It’s important to remember, as you work hard on your career, that you are not alone. Yes, you need to do the work and “make it happen” for yourself. But if you stop and think, you have many people in your network who can provide guidance and feedback.

I call these people “mentors for the moment.” Between Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and your email contacts, you have a HUGE list of people who can give you objective, honest advice. Take advantage of it.

When friends ask me for career advice, I do what I can to help. The next minute, I might seek out the same person to draw on their strengths (ex: finance, business strategy).

It’s not a weakness to ask for help. It shows you’re serious about getting better every day.

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