Last year I was given the honor of giving the keynote speech at the New York Women in Communications Student Communications Career Conference at New York University.
I spoke before a few hundred students about what it was like to be a producer, win an Emmy award, and write my book Listful Thinking. While these are some of my proudest accomplishments, I felt it was important to also talk about some of my biggest failures.
The reality is that many graduates will struggle to find jobs in their chosen field. Or if they do find those jobs, they might not be well suited to them, but they'll push through because they are "the lucky ones."
I’ve had my fair share of ups and downs during my career. It wasn’t always sunshine and rainbows. I failed, too. I took two jobs back to back that weren’t good fits for me, and I was miserable. It happens.
After speaking at NYU, some of the students told me how thankful they were that I had shared my experience with the “F word”—failure. We tend to shy away from it, but we should embrace it.
1. Failure makes you realize what’s important.
I’ve heard that when you can’t make a decision, you should flip a coin, because the moment that coin is in the air, you finally realize what you really want.
Failure works in a similar way. When the chips are down, what really matters to you becomes so clear. We don’t often think about our long-term priorities, but in tough times, we often have to make sacrifices. That means doing a little soul-searching about those priorities. It’s times like these when you realize the thing you’ve been so relentlessly pursuing might not be what you actually need.
2. Failure takes you back to the beginning.
When I was about 14 years old, I went on a tour of the set of World News Tonight with Peter Jennings, thanks to a childhood friend’s dad who worked at ABC. It was the day that I fell in love with journalism. That dad is the one who got me hooked on the news business and on TV, just by opening up his world to me and showing me what he did for a living. (P.S. We actually work together now, all these years later!)
When I have a setback, I always find myself thinking back to that moment. How awestruck I felt walking through that studio. It reminds me that in the end, it’s all worth it. That kindness has always stuck with me, and I try to do the same for anyone who is interested in what I do.
3. Failure helps you see how far you’ve come.
The saying goes, "When you hit rock bottom, there’s nowhere to go but up." In theory, by failing, you’ve almost guaranteed that the next step you take will be a success. A relative one, sure, but a success nonetheless.
Plus, it makes us more aware of how our idea of rock bottom is constantly changing. When I miss out on an opportunity, it’s upsetting, but it also makes me recognize how far I’ve come to have even had the opportunity. Everyone always says, "It's an honor just to be nominated," and it’s true that it feels good to know that your work it at least getting some recognition. And hey, there’s always next year.