You Made a Mistake. Now What?

You’ve probably heard this before: many of the world’s most famous icons and role models faced challenges and made mistakes before ultimately reaching success.

Take former NBC Tonight Show host, Conan O’Brien, who, in one of my favorite commencement speeches, shared:

 “Whether you fear it or not, disappointment will come. The beauty is that through disappointment you can gain clarity, and with clarity comes conviction and true originality.”

We often forget that failure is in fact part of our paths to success.

Arianna Huffington is Co-founder of one of the most well-known global publications, The Huffington Post. In a Fast Company piece, Huffington states, “I strongly believe that we are not put on this Earth just to accumulate victories and trophies and avoid failures; but rather to be whittled and sandpapered down until what’s left is who we truly are.” For her second book, she met with 36 different publishers who all said “no,” before she finally got a “yes.”

How many of us would have persisted after the first “no”? The third? The tenth? Not many.

It has been a little over a year since I started at HB. Similar to everyone who joins the workforce after graduation, I am in a constant whirlwind. Luckily, I am also learning so many new things every day.

Recently, someone asked me, “What’s been your biggest learning experience since you graduated?” For me, my biggest and most hard-hitting lessons have been making—and learning from—my mistakes.

We all make mistakes, it’s the human thing to do. So here are some steps to help you turn those missteps into part of your pathway to success.

Allow yourself to fail—then do something about it.

There is so much to learn from the humility that failure allows us to experience. It’s what you do after you make mistakes that demonstrates your true potential. Allowing yourself to fail creates a challenge and ultimately a better understanding of the situation. It better positions you to succeed in the future.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Learn to ask for help when you need it. The harsh reality is that agency life is not gently handed to you, it’s thrown at you and you just learn to roll with the punches. Don’t be afraid to ask necessary questions to complete a task – either big or small. Your co-workers will understand you’re learning and will want to help as much as possible. They’ve been in your shoes before, too.

Surround yourself with smart individuals.

We often hear, you are the company you keep, and I believe the same thing goes for the work environment. Every day, I have the opportunity to work with some of the smartest PR and creative pros. I’ve grown so much this past year just from absorbing the lessons from the talent around me. They have challenged me, they have proven me wrong and it has made me excel in a number of ways.

One of my favorite stories of failure that lead to success was when our PR team was responsible for pitching an upcoming announcement for one of our clients. I had spent the entire day reaching out to 50 + reporters from different publications via email and phone and by the end of the day, I had received no feedback – the day felt unsuccessful, and to me, a failure.

It wasn’t until my colleague came up to me and shared, “If you dial 10-digits, you can reach anyone in the country – it’s up to you to figure out which 10.” Only then did I realize, they weren’t about to give up on me and they knew I could turn it around.

I spent the next few hours grinding away at my desk – researching every relevant reporter’s beat and getting to know what their interests really were – personalizing my pitches – and introducing myself to new people, which ultimately put myself in front the appropriate reporter, landing a feature piece on my client.

Have an opinion and voice it.

Having an opinion is one thing, but being able to voice it properly is another. Speak up. Spark new ideas. Don’t doubt yourself. Help others understand your point of view. Don’t be afraid to challenge the norm—it’s where some of the best ideas are born. Embrace your opinions and have a say. It may not always pan out the way you envisioned it, but it is always better to voice your opinions with conviction and the willingness to make a mistake than to remain quiet.

But don’t forget the importance of listening.

Listening is just part of the HB Way, especially because we always work in teams. It’s important to listen to our peers, provide them the respect to voice their own opinions and work together to collaborate, create ideas and solve problems.

Build relationships.

Whether it’s with co-workers, clients or the media, building those bridges and forming relationships is absolutely vital to surviving in the professional world. Put yourself out there, start a conversation that may be “awkward” at first—you never know who you may end up meeting, and where that relationship may take you.

At the end of the day, learn to accept your mistakes, but don’t forget to think about ways to improve the next time you’re in a similar scenario. You’ll gain that clarity and true originality that Conan O’Brien shares with us.


About Mower Boston

Boston's Mower office is a full-service technology marketing, PR and branding agency. Our B2B stories illustrate projects and campaigns in a variety of markets and media that range from local impact in Boston and New England to global proportions.


  1. Rachael says:

    Great post, Taylor. Congratulations on a successful first year!

  2. Megan Murphy says:

    Well said Taylor! I feel like a proud mother 🙂

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