Failure sucks. When you have your sights set on a goal, you pursue it and miss the mark, it’s bound to be disheartening. You’ve dreamed of success, you’ve envisaged how your life will be when you’ve achieved it, you’ve visualised how great you’ll feel and all the people you will help along the way, and then a massive roadblock is put in your way.
We’ve all been there. It’s so normal to starting doubting yourself when you don’t live up to the expectations you have for yourself. Am I good enough? Am I an imposter? Do I make enough of a contribution to this planet? Failure is a part of life, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t difficult to process.
This is where I am at the moment. I went for a more senior role at work, one where I met every criterion in the job specification, one that I thought I could smash the living daylights out of, and I didn’t even get an interview. Just a flat-out rejection, with no opportunity to let my brilliance shine out.
My first reaction to the rejection was embarrassment, even humiliation, for thinking I had a chance. Horrible worry set in, about not being a good enough fundraiser, not helping enough people, and not being respected by my colleagues. And of course, sadness, that the direction of my life might not be the one I have been anticipating.
But after some time to process and let myself feel sad, I’m back with a vengeance. That notion of life taking a different turn to the one I had planned is something I am now looking at as a world of exciting opportunities. My quest to be extraordinary isn’t just about work, it’s about every single thing I do.
Something positive has come out of every single setback in life, and I won’t let this one be any different.
Failure is just life’s little way of saying ‘This wasn’t the right thing at this moment. Maybe it will be again, but change your focus.’
This feels like a really good time to plan an adventure.
I have lists of goals everywhere, and a lot more of them are linked to adventure than to work. Work is where I get my self-worth, but adventure is where I truly come alive.
So what next?
In the short term, I am going to book a day of either surfing or stand-up paddleboarding. Something outdoorsy and mindful to take my mind off things. But long-term, I’m thinking big. A lot of adventurers have their sights set on one, life-changing expedition that they have always dreamed of.
I thought that my dream adventure would be the explorers’ grand slam, which is climbing the highest mountain in each continent and hitting up the north and south poles. Now I won’t lie, this would be a huge achievement, but I stumbled across another adventure, which is THE ONE.
Please don’t laugh. Or maybe you should – it is kind of ridiculous. I saw an advert on Explorers Connect, where a man is recruiting for team mates to cross the Atlantic on a bouncy castle. The moment I read those words, I knew I had to find a way in.
The bouncy castle has been designed specifically to withstand the conditions of the perilous Atlantic. We would have a professional support boat alongside, and would be cruising at a time of year where there have been no hurricanes for many years. Safety is, of course, a huge consideration, but this is really achievable.
The biggest undertaking will be the fundraising, as we will have to drum up around £250k from trusts and corporate sponsorship to make it happen. Luckily, fundraising is what I do, and I think that’s part of how I have sold myself for the expedition team. But the truth is, I’m used to fundraising for well-established charities that save lives. Pitching for a bunch of mavericks doing something a bit mad might be a different kettle of fish. We would also be doing large scale fundraising for charity.
I’m meeting the guy tomorrow who is organising it, which I am actually quite nervous about. I really, really want to be a part of this team, but I know I have to trust my gut when it comes to meeting him. Spending two months with someone is a huge undertaking for an introvert, and I would need to feel comfortable and safe.
Being a part of this expedition would be the ultimate middle finger up to my self-doubt.
There are other things I want to focus on, like learning to drive, doing a navigation course, and obviously keeping all of my training going for my upcoming adventures in the Lake District and the Arctic. I have to remind myself that there are so many things I love besides work.
If I had got this job, it would have been really, really tough. I would have been working hard, super focussed, and I’m sure I wouldn’t have had the time or mental capacity to cross the Atlantic on a bouncy castle. That old cliché, ‘One door closes and another one opens’ is so true.
This is just a setback. It doesn’t mean I’ll never get to the level I want to be, or even that I’ll never be a Head of Fundraising. It just means, that for now, I’m going to keep working bloody hard at the job I already know I can do, and work even harder at adventuring.
People are always telling me ‘Look how far you’ve come.’ My response to them is ‘No, just watch how far I’m going to go.’
Failure started out by telling me I’m not good enough. But I’m not listening to that negativity. Failure is an ally that is motivating me to be a better fundraiser and employee, a more daring adventurer, a wilder dreamer, a more compassionate friend, a more inquisitive learner, mentally stronger. Failure is my motivation not to give up, to seize opportunities and live life to the full.
To failure I say ‘Thank you. You just watch me.’