Rise Performance Group

Is Failure Defining You or Refining You?

One June morning a few years ago I boarded a flight from Dallas to Chicago.  I remember how anxious I was to meet with my new boss, straight from Paris, France, for the first time.  I was excited to meet him and share with him the great opportunities my sales team was pursuing and how we were progressing toward our goals despite a difficult downturn in the economy.

I remember being greeted by the bright smiles as I walked the halls high fiving members of my Chicago based team.  After five years and two promotions with the company, I was well known and felt I was respected by many.

But when I walked into Jean Michel’s office, it was a completely different atmosphere.  I was greeted by, “Bon jour Mach.   Cum in zeh room, s’il vous plait.”

Now unfortunately, I was a bit cocky back in those days.

I remember mumbling under my breath something along the lines of “in Chicago we don’t speak much French.  In Chicago, we simply say good morning, come on in.”

My cockiness turned to a cold sweat when I realized the document on his desk was a severance package, not a welcome package.  That cold sweat turned to panic when I saw my wife, my kids and my future flash before my eyes.

I was livid, to say the least.  This caught me completely out of left field.  I had invested significant time and energy into this company.  On top of that, I delivered results.  I had always been a top performer.  In my mind it was not fair.  I felt like a victim.

I hope none of you reading this today have ever been through an experience where you were fired or laid off, but I bet all of you have experienced failure and disappointment.  Maybe, like me, you even felt like you were the victim.

Today, as I look back on this event, I have gained a new perspective.  Knowing what I know now I am amazed I lasted in that job as long as I did.  My arrogance coupled with my desire to win, no matter how much glass I broke in the process, is what ultimately led to my demise.

During this time, I am embarrassed to say, I lived by the mantra, lead, follow or get the heck out of my way.  I applied that mantra to anyone who crossed my path.

I was not a victim, rather, I was a student who needed some refining.

Today, as crazy as it sounds, I am grateful for this and many other lessons I have learned through failure. Some of those lessons include:

Patience and Understanding

I need to be more patient and understanding of others and where they are in their journey.  Rather than expecting others to see things my way, I look harder to see things their way.  I work to be slower to judge and quicker to believe in others and their potential.  I work to understand the vision of others before I expect them to understand my vision.  I work to serve before expecting to be served.  [bctt tweet=”Work to understand the vision of others before expecting them to understand your vision. Work to serve before expecting to be served.” username=”markatrisepg”]


I need to work harder at connecting with and appealing to those that are beside me and above me in my organization.  I used to expect those above me to respect me for my accomplishments and to come to me with recognition.

I learned that while accomplishments are important, humility increases trust while arrogance decreases trust.  When you can combine humility with accomplishment you have a recipe for influence.  [bctt tweet=”Accomplishments are important, but humility increases trust while arrogance decreases trust.” username=”markatrisepg”]

Everything Happens for a Reason

The biggest lesson I learned, however, is the truth that everything in life happens for a reason.  Now at the time, I did not see the reason.  Sometimes in the midst of the storm, you aren’t looking for the reason and you might not recognize it if you were.

As I look back on this epic failure I now see lessons that have refined me into the person I am today.  I have learned that if I will let events like this refine me, rather than define me, they can ultimately take me to a much better place.  [bctt tweet=”If I will let failure refine me, rather than define me, it can ultimately take me to a much better place.” username=”markatrisepg”]

Today, I’m more intentional about looking for the lesson through the inevitable setbacks that come from pursuing a bold vision.  I’ve found these questions to be helpful:

  • What is the lesson I need to be learning from this situation?
  • How could this serve me at some point in the future?
  • How can I turn this situation around and stay on track?


Today, I am doing work that fulfills my purpose and totally energizes me.  I believe this is possible because of the difficult lessons I have learned over the course of my career.  Lessons that have refined me, not defined me.

How have you used past failures to refine you?  What specific failures have provided the refinement you needed to achieve a major victory?

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