African Americans; 5 Lessons About My Career I Learned From My Unsuccessful Friend.




( It was a rainy Sunday afternoon. I was reading a book and got a message from my childhood friend. We were in the same school for 8 years but later he moved out of the city and coincidentally we met after many years. I was working for a company and he was trying to get his dream job in banking sector. During those days, all he had to do is to clear an exam, perform well in some group discussion sessions, crack two interviews, and get the job.

It was easy because the competition was less. His first attempt was unsuccessful but the job was worth taking one more chance to prepare and face challenges again. Since it was his first year after he completed his MBA, he wasn’t much worried about sacrificing one more year. There’s a saying in my group of friends who invest in stocks: “you never know when to be fearful and when to be greedy.” And I believe this was his condition that time.

He spent around 5 years on chasing his dream job, and what happened after so many failed attempt is what he texted me that afternoon. He cleared his exams but couldn’t crack the interview. I called him and saw him drowning in unhappiness. He was constantly asking me why is it happening to him? I took a deep breath and before saying anything to him, I looked into myself, I looked into his life and I looked at the lives of people I know. In that silence, I found 5 lessons his failure taught me. I hope these lessons about career will help you.

1. We all have a vested interest in ignorance

We all are born with the ability to solve problems. No matter if it is a mathematical equation or some problems related to our personal lives. We are programmed to simplify things and absorb the final output. If you meet an accountant, the person will try his best to simplify things so that you can easily understand, and that’s what you expect him to do. Our brains take information and pick what fits perfectly within our own blueprint of the world.

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For many of us, we are always right and everyone else is always wrong. The brain is extremely biased toward avoiding contradictory information and protecting our own beliefs. Our interest in ignorance makes our brain resistant to see the mistakes we make. Instead, we often try to make points to justify our decisions. We often try to prove to people they are wrong. Many of us are either quick to criticize things they don’t understand, or they simply make fun of those highly intelligent people who are capable enough to get things done.

After observing my friend’s life for more than 5 years, I realized we all are ignorant to some extent. Some people are plain stupid, while others don’t make such mistakes often, but they do make cognitive shortcuts. And since our brains are programmed in that way, it’s important to see and realize our own mistakes.

We should stop looking for evidences that support our opinions and our own beliefs about the world. Being open to new, unbiased information makes us realize how easily we are influenced, and it also makes us see that our process of supporting our thoughts is two-faced.

2. We can’t just leave, even if it is something we should

When my friend completed his MBA in finance, he got himself stuck in a long five-year career chasing. Deep down he knew it was an absolute waste of time. He was not the right fit for that banking job because he was lacking some core skills his dream job needed, but he still persisted. The biggest mistake he made was he didn’t invest time in mastering those skills.

If your beliefs are strong like a mountain, you must check the foundation to reach safely to the top. You shouldn’t go up just because you see everyone else doing it.

He kept thinking he had already spent so much time on working toward the goal, how could he possibly quit without making one more attempt? It’s pretty hard to quit something that you’ve spent your golden time in, especially if you are still hopeful that things will change. But sometimes, pulling the plug on is the only way to save yourself from situations you shouldn’t be in.

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My friend justified his irrational decisions just because he spent time on something. When he failed for the first, second and third time, he justified putting more time and effort into it and sadly, this process cycle didn’t end. Even after four years of struggle, I saw him justifying his current decisions using his past decisions.

The result he got after so many attempts was a clear indication that continuing the decision will spoil his future as he was doing nothing other than studying to clear those exams and interviews to get his dream job.

3. We all live in denial

One day I was speaking to my friend and he told me a couple of things about his journey. The conversation made me realize we all live in denial to an extent, if not completely. We hate to be in the current situation if it is not ideal. It becomes difficult to accept what we are and what we have. But smart people accept their current situation and work toward changing it.

He started avoiding people and he declared he is no longer interested in meeting anyone. After so many attempts, this was his decision to keep himself away from the questions people ask about his life, his preparation, his future and where he stands at present. The guilt and shame started making him feel like hiding from everyone and running away from everything.

His decision was immature, of course, and this is not how a person should handle tough situations, especially a failure. But how many of us choose the second path that leads to accepting our current situation and working toward changing it?

We often tend to avoid thinking about a bad relationship, or our inability to focus, we often watch movies or we sleep to avoid thinking. We often fail to understand that doing nothing won’t change the situation. Doing nothing cannot bring us closer to our dreams. If we keep living in denial, we will badly hit the wall and fall into a depression.

4. We forget there’s a life outside the dream zone

Make a choice now. How do you want to die –  with memories or with dreams?

Life can be busy and sometimes we are too busy we don’t make time for people and the world outside of our dream zone. On the surface, people are trying to make things happen, but in their mind, they are simply going over how badly they failed last time, how they couldn’t clear the interview last month or what might happen the next week.

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A person who suffers from anxiety, it is easy for him to become frustrated or worried about things he shouldn’t be. When it comes to designing a path for our career, we try to do too much to feel confident. It is because we are afraid that if we spend even a small amount of time with people who are not directly related to our career, we will not achieve anything.

If you’re like my friend who doesn’t feel like interacting with people just due to a secret fear that it will take him away from his goals, you can understand how exhausting this feeling can be. When you’re addicted to work, study or business planning, the overload of ideas can paralyze the ability to act and make right decisions. At the end of the day, you feel guilty that you’re not getting enough things done.

All you need is a balance. Going all into something is good, but not to an extent where we start avoiding everything else.

5. We either don’t know our worth or we often forget to feel worthy

My friend still thinks he is not good enough. It may sound like a positive trait because after failing many times, he started working on improving himself. It was needed, but in this journey, he forgot to look at what he already has and he is still striving for improvements. He still thinks he is not good enough, and perfection is, of course, his worst enemy. He always considered himself more knowledgeable than the competition but never considered himself intelligent.

In life, if we know our own worth or if we celebrate the gifts of being healthy, alive and having what many others don’t have, we can stop focusing on our flaws, weaknesses, and imperfections. Many people are not aware of the strengths, and talents they have. Some of us are aware of these natural gifts, but they don’t value their abilities.

We often feel hesitant in acknowledging that good things can happen because of us. We simply attribute our own achievements to luck or other people and feel proud of it. We simply make ourselves small after every accomplishment by saying “it’s nothing”, “anybody can do this, what’s special in that”.

Many people don’t get what they want because they only pursue what they think they deserve. Seeing what we have as worthy and seeing ourselves as worthy of all the best things is the greatest life lesson. And I hope my friend had learned the lesson before quitting.

Staff Writer; Corey Shaw

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