How to Not be Okay
There are loads of articles, blogs, and news entries which discuss success: what it’s like, how to achieve it, and what to do with it. We regard those people who are on top of the social, political, and economic ladders as flawless individuals. After witnessing how others have obtained success, we create goals and aspirations for ourselves. We envision our futures, and we plan out what accomplishments we wish to achieve. Inevitably, there are obstacles with which we experience that send us in the opposite direction of where we initially planned. And that’s alright. Experiencing failure, and circumstances, where you are forced to change your original plan, is entirely normal. Life is full of different experiences. With each new experience, we are faced with additional challenges. It is vital to avoid falling into a rut when things do not go as initially planned. Don’t be afraid to change your goals, adapt to new situations, or to solve problems you have never experienced before.
We as a society tend to focus on studying successful leaders. We buy into those self-help books which promise us money, fame, and power. To counteract these tendencies, Barbara Kellerman published the book, Bad Leadership: What It Is, How It Happens, Why It Matters in 2004.
Kellerman’s main argument is that while there are certainly advantages to studying successful leadership, it is also beneficial to study unsuccessful leadership. Kellerman explains that when “bad” leaders, which she describes as either unethical or incompetent, are forgotten, we also forget what went wrong. When we forget these mistakes, we fail to equip ourselves with strategies for avoiding these same failures, how to realize we are in similar situations as these unsuccessful leaders, and how to improve our circumstances. Essentially, history repeats itself. Over and over.
Of course, failure and mistakes cannot always be avoided. However, they can be acknowledged. Too many of us brush mistakes under the rug and hide them as shameful secrets. Additionally, we tend to turn on ourselves with negative criticism. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in feelings of inadequacy. We tend to forget about all the good we have done and focus on how we could not follow the exact plan we laid out for ourselves. We are hard on ourselves because we focus on our ideal self. Our ideal self is someone who does not get tired after a long day of work, who does not need a few minutes, or hours, to destress, and can effortlessly move from project to project. This person is not real. Even the leaders who inspire us to accomplish our dreams were and are human. They have not been able to accomplish all that they set out to do. Even the most successful leader has experienced failure in some form be it: rejected from a job, failing an assignment, or realizing they want to quit something they once loved and start something else.
It’s okay to change your major, it’s okay to repeat a class, and it’s okay not to know what your next step is. The most extraordinary types of people are the ones who do not follow a linear path. They are the ones who experience unplanned circumstances and are willing to adapt their plans and succeed in their own way.