Diversity Woman Magazine

WIN 2016

Leadership and Executive Development for women of all races, cultures and backgrounds

Issue link: https://diversitywoman.epubxp.com/i/632328

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Page 31 of 67

We Mean Business > 30 D I V E R S I T Y W O M A N W I n t e r 2 0 1 6 d i v e r s i t y w o m a n . c o m "You have to be ready to make mistakes and try again," says Alina Tugend, author of Better by Mistake: Te Unexpected Ben- efts of Being Wrong, which cites the study. "It's something we lose sight of." Sometimes it's harder for us if we grew up with a string of successes, Tugend adds. We're used to striving for the best and being the best, so when we hit a road- block, we're not equipped to handle it. Tat happened to Mari Corella. "I had been an overachiever my whole life," Corella explains. "I believed that if you worked hard, you would get a good job and life would be good after that." After graduating from University of California at Berkeley, Corella landed a position at a national fashion retailer. A year in, she applied for a promotion, confdent that she would be selected. She wasn't. Te decision wrecked her. She searched for answers. Was it something she had done? Was it because of her back- ground (Latina and Asian)? What did she lack? She felt so miserable that her unhappiness began to manifest itself in aches and pains in her body. She snapped at her colleagues at work. She cried. She was mean to new hires. "I became a dis- gruntled employee," she says. "I did many things I was not supposed to do." Corella spent a year interviewing for other jobs, but the economy had stalled and she couldn't land a new position. Finally, she applied for business school, was accepted, and earned an MBA. Te move helped restart her career. "Failure is a gift, a clear sign to try a new method of achieving your goals," says Corella, who is now a digital executive at a national beauty company in New York. Early on, Corella put too much pressure on herself. She's since learned to shake of failures, and she's also more compassionate with those around her when they make mis- takes. "We can't change what's happened to us in the past," she says. "We can't change what's going to happen in the future. But we can change how we react to both." Failing forward Most of us don't handle failure well, says Good of Fail Forward. We want to blame others or point to extenuating circum- stances. But we can learn to "fail forward." Te frst step is to recognize the instinct to fnd fault elsewhere and move beyond it. Instead, it's important to refect on the situation and to ask ourselves what or how we can change—and grow. What can we do diferently next time? After all, we don't want to make the same errors again and again. It also helps to have a trusted friend or mentor with whom you can share your story. Our impulse may be to hide our mistakes, but being open about them can help. "We are often harder on ourselves, so the act of sharing brings us out of the death spiral of despair," says Good. "Tis is not a nice-to-have skill," she adds. "It is a must-have skill because of the complexity of problems we're trying to solve. Everyone is going to need a pro- ductive relationship with failure." Jessica Bacal, author of Mistakes I Made at Work, stresses the importance of self- compassion. Our mistakes don't have to defne us. Tat is, just because you lose doesn't mean you're a loser, and just because you fail doesn't mean you're a failure. "One thing you've done doesn't represent your whole self and your whole career," she says. "It's useful to give your- self the compassion that you would ofer to a good friend." Bacal was inspired to pen Mistakes I Made at Work after she was named di- rector of the Wurtele Center for Work & Life at Smith College. Faced with a steep learning curve, she found herself feel- ing anxious about the mistakes she kept making. In her book, she turned to 25 prominent women, such as author Cheryl Strayed and McKinsey director Joanna Barsh, and asked them to share a mistake they had made and how they overcame it. Reshma Saujani was one of the women Bacal featured. Saujani had run for Con- gress in New York and had lost in a land- slide. She gave herself two weeks to feel terrible, then picked up the pieces and eventually took a public advocacy job. In her new role, she found that students, especially girls, in New York City public schools did not have enough access to technology education. It inspired her to start the nonproft Girls Who Code. Te training program now reaches nearly 4,000 girls in 29 states, with the goal of exposing 1 million girls to computer sci- ence by 2020. Failure gave Saujani the power to take more risks because she felt like the worst had already happened. "Failure can make you stronger, tougher, and more resilient if you look at it the right way," she says. "Girls Who Code might never have been founded if I had won [the election]." Failure opened the door for Tifany Gil- lespie, too. A few years ago, Gillespie felt that she had landed her dream job when she was hired by an event-planning com- pany. But three months into it, she forgot to place an order for a client. Te mistake cost Gillespie her position. "I was devas- tated," she says. "I had never been let go from a job. I felt like such a failure." Gillespie, who had studied criminal justice in school, returned to the legal in- dustry and took a temporary job at a law frm. But she still loved event planning and continued to pursue it on the side. When her law frm gig ended, she decided not to search for a new position. Instead, she launched To the "T" Events and Ca- tering in Philadelphia. She gave herself six months to make it work. It did. Now more than a year later, she is organiz- ing weddings, book tours, and corporate events. Although Gillespie still regrets that fateful mistake, she might not other- wise have had the courage to go out and launch her own business. As she says, "Tat mistake was the best thing that happened to me." DW Ellen Lee is a business and technology journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. It's important to re- fect on the situation and to ask ourselves what or how we can change—and grow.

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