Pursuit: “What I wish I knew when I was _____”

There’s A LOT of advice in the world of online articles (such as here and here) and books (like this) where “older” people look back and make a list of the things they wish they knew at “(enter number here)” age. These sorts of reminiscent-advice-laden articles and books are exciting! Being a “young” person you’re getting full access pass to secrets that older successful people want you to know.


A common theme across many of these advice articles are about failing.

Enter Diane Garnick

Diane Garnick used to be an investment banker at Invesco, that is, up until she started her own asset management firm last year. This firm gives women employees the freedom to take time off while they have children and hire them back, if they choose to, after their maternity leave. Garnick, has your typical American dream story. Rags to riches, teenage pregnancy, studied really really hard, and now is a “household” name in corporate baking in the U.S.

Learning How to Fail

 She’s quite the lady, perseverant story (you can read more here), and I forgot to mention– she also taught at the MIT Sloan School of business. Garnick used to teach “The Fine Art of Failure.” I love that her past gives her immense credibility to teach a class of this nature. This is what she has to say about failure on Tech Ticker:

Fail Early and Often: Garnick says the average person fails 10 times over the span of their career. Since it’s inevitable, she says it’s best to fail early in one’s career. Not only will you learn more, it will be less damaging to your company — and your career.

Don’t Deny Failure: You can’t learn from your mistakes if you don’t own up to them. You’ll be much wiser and more successful if you acknowledge your failure, says Garnick.

Take Risk: Think about career risk and reward “the same way we think about risk and reward in investing,” says Garnick.

Yahoo! Finance

Adding Action

 I really respect Garnick, and can imagine that this class was filled with vivid examples and actionable steps. For now, this is how I would add action to her advice.

Fail Early and Often: This one really ties in with “Take Risk.” Taking a risk is relative. We all have different risk barometers – the point is to consistently test those limits. And start doing so  now! Don’t like your professors opinion about a particular issue? Do your research and go let them know, armed with solid evidence (our school systems makes us really-really-really good suck ups.) If you’re the type that agrees with everything that comes out of any professors mouth – try to disagree with one thing (topic, argument, paper, anything!) in each class per semester. Ask your boss to try out a different method of completing a project.

Don’t Deny Failure: We often “cover up” our failure with excuses and explanations. Many of those excuses and explanations may be valid. However, those excuses can become obstacles to learning. What does “owning your mistakes” really look like? I would say, first, stopping and saying to yourself – “I screwed up!” Second, identifying at least 1 thing that lead to that mistake – “was I not listening to my gut?” “Was I out too late?” “Did I miss class too often?” Identify one variable that may have caused failure. Third, ruthlessly work towards eradicating it.

Take Risk: Again, risk is relative. The most important actions are never comfortable, let that be your guide.


What do you think? How do you incorporate failure in your day-to-day?

Divya Pahwa writes about young-lady career advice in the weekly series Pursuit, here on the  McGill Caps Blog.

image taken from: Toronto Private Schools

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