I recently listened to a powerful speech given at a graduation ceremony in 2011 by Denzel Washington. During it he asked the crowd a question, “Do you have the guts to fail?” He told the story of his first (car crash!) audition for a Broadway musical and the countless parts in movies and plays that he didn’t achieve over his 30 year career. He also spoke about the renowned Tony Award that he had just earned, an award that only a handful of gifted actors are bestowed. The over all message of the 22 minute long talk was that if you don’t take risks and fail from time to time, are you even trying? He closed with these words, “When you fall throughout life….. Fall forward”.
Back in January I received some unfortunate news at work. After three years doing a job that I loved, for a company that I am so genuinely proud to work for, I was told that my position was being made redundant as of that week. I sat in a state of shock as my manager spoke to me about what was next. I was devastated. I remember trying so hard not get upset. I wanted to click my fingers and vanish out of the room because I knew as soon as the tears started they wouldn’t stop. Of course I don’t have magical powers (unlucky!), so I ended up sobbing my eyes out right there. It was a difficult conversation for everyone in the room.
In the hours and days that followed I gathered my thoughts. So many questions and worries about the future flooded my mind. Thankfully they asked me to cover for a colleague who was on maternity leave for the next 5 months so I was grateful to know I wasn’t going to be out of a job immediately. It gave me time to think and plan what was next for my career. Having a good work ethic is something that is very important to me and I didn’t want to let a little thing like losing my job stop me from working hard! So I threw myself in to the task I had been given, even if it was only temporary. I decided that the only option was to embrace the change and do my best to not allow the curve ball to take over.
Life is constantly changing all around us, and although it can be frightening, it is inevitable. Even if you sit in a room, alone, for the rest of your life change WILL happen. The world outside will keep spinning and life will move on, with or without your permission. There isn’t a single thing that we can do to stop our lives from developing. But we can choose what kind of attitude we will have towards it, which is what makes the difference. I honestly believe that if you choose to see change as an opportunity and not an obstacle you can find happiness and contentment within any situation.
Being made redundant came at a time when lots of other areas of my life were transforming. Once the initial shock had worn off I thought about how funny it is that you can be so sure you know where you stand in the universe, where you are going and who you are, and then out of nowhere something can happen that completely knocks you off course. When I look back at my life this time last year, there are so many aspects that are utterly different now. Change and knockbacks have been the building blocks of where I am today, each lesson learnt being just as priceless as the last.
During his speech, Washington really pushed home the difficult but true fact that in life you will fail, you will lose and it will be hard. But that this can be the best way to figure out what direction you are going in. He championed the thinking that if you keep going, have a little hope, don’t be discouraged, take risks and be open to change “you WILL catch a break”.
So to end this piece on a high note, last Thursday I got the exciting news that I am starting a brand-new job within my company in May. I’ll be doing something completely different and I could not be more excited, and ready. It has taken four months of uncertainty, hard work and change but I’m here and I am thrilled. So just remember, when life knocks you back, whether it’s work or family, relationships or finances, don’t ever give up. You will always come out the other side, and when you do you will be able to say; Yes I fell……. But I fell forward.
Written with love,