When you’re 18, it is crushing to be knocked back as you apply for jobs and try to find an opening where someone isn’t demanding experience.
When you’re 30, you get less knockbacks, work generally heads in the right direction, most people have a love life that is settling into a pattern they can live with, and the world feels like it’s on your side.
But the older you get, the more you realise that a life well lived is a life that is littered with hurdles – and unless you are either the guy out of the bachelor or you are living in a pretend world of Facebook highlights, you are going to fail to get over a whole lot of them.
Failure has carried a lot of stigma to date; but if we are going to own up to the reality of a successful 21st century life, we need to realise that a lot of fails – even a lot of epic fails – are required if we are going to extend our boundaries and become the people we have the potential to be.
I run one of Australia’s leading Indigenous education companies, teaching nationally-recognised leadership programs that combine people from remote communities with people from the inner city – and one of the biggest hurdles is to support the students to reach out and fail.
It’s easy to feel down when you’ve been knocked back on your fifteenth job application, or rejected by online friends, or are facing relationship drama – but it’s time to realise that your ability to fail, your ability to get up tomorrow and persist is a cause for celebration – particularly when others haven’t been able to even see your latest hurdle.
Indigenous people have lower life expectancy, lower incomes, poorer health, and lower education levels on average than non-Indigenous people – by a margin so large that every level of government in Australia has supported initiatives to Close the Gap. Every week we meet people who don’t feel good enough to apply for a management role; who don’t have a family member who has completed their education and don’t know where to start for themselves; or who have experienced serious family problems and don’t feel confident about starting a relationship.
Every week we also get letters from graduates who tell us their lives have been changed through leadership development; that they have new jobs, new careers, new roles in the community – or simply new confidence to pursue life and all that it offers.
In the 21st century, failure is not only an option – it’s a privilege that all of us need to be able to experience, so that we can reach out and overcome hurdles that prevent us from being our best.
Rachelle Towart is CEO of the Australian Indigenous Leadership Centre www.ailc.org.au
Rachelle recently featured on The Hoopla with a poignant piece on Closing the Gap in relation to indigenous Australians and how far they are from experiencing the same levels of life, health and wealth security as the rest of Australia.