At nearly 30, I am on the bleeding edge of the gold star generation. You know the one that has a sturdy collection of honorable mention ribbons and a room of plaques that say "A for effort."
I am also lucky. I have found success in life at an early age. A serendipitous cocktail of being at the right place at the right time, developing a great gut instinct, and practicing the art of insatiable curiosity has afforded me a lot of professional gold stars. Failure or even not being wildly successful at an endeavor, well it is a feeling I am as comfortable in as an Angora sweater in the middle of summer.
I failed recently and let's be honest: I am very, VERY itchy.
Now let me stop you, this is not some "woe is me" piece -- I know -- failure is common. Millions people have experienced it before me, and millions more will after me. I could easily find a thousand Etsy prints trying to cajole me into a better sense of self by sharing trite inspirational quotes or stories of famous people who've failed at some point.
But none of that makes it any easier to swallow...and I began to wonder -- is harder to fail as a millennial? I know, that feels like a very millennial question ask. Self-important, blah, blah, blah.
But really, think about it, this new generation and the Ys, Zs and Alpha's that are following us -- our egos are built up over the years. The everyday is applauded; we are lead to believe we can do whatever we want, create anything we want, the sky is the limit. And while yes there is more possibility than ever to create your destiny (barf), that also means there are more opportunities to fail, and we as a generation are in no way, shape or form ready for it.
Case and point: me.
It doesn't really matter what the failure was, it happened. It didn't go the way it was planned, and that is pretty much that.
My reaction? Complete and utter meltdown. I nose-dived into a pool of self-pity, despair and asking myself "WHERE DID I GO WRONG?" My husband came home to find me sitting in the dark, staring at an empty wall. You'd think I was suffering from some form of PTSD.
Upon returning to work the next day I realized that the more seasoned individuals on the project weren't even that upset. Their attitudes were shrugs paired with statements of "You win some, you lose some." How could they feel so cavalier when my world seemed to be devolving into a Dali painting in which time stood still and insecurities ate at the carcass of my self-esteem?
On the other side of it now, I realize how overly dramatic and entirely ridiculous my reaction was. Failure is a part of doing business, it is a part of LIFE... it is just not a part I've ever been taught to deal with...
Interestingly, failure is commonly discussed and in fact destigmatized in the entrepreneurial and sports worlds -- but not as much in corporate America. What if you botched that pitch to your CEO? Didn't get that hotshot new client? Blew your department budget on a product that didn't work?
These are smaller, more discreet failures. Perhaps just as common as those in sports and startups, but they are not as openly discussed.
As the majority of us millennials are neither athletes nor entrepreneurs, we are therefore still susceptible to the stigmatized sting of failure. So instead of blue ribbons for trying, somewhere along the way our parents and mentors need to let us absorb life's disappointments and equip us with the tools we need to accept and grow from our failures - the big, and the small - because let's be honest, sitting in the dark, staring at a wall for an hour doesn't do a lot of good for anyone.