In defense of failure: Why going outside your comfort zone is essential to growth

From the pages of In Business magazine.

The other day I was sitting at my desk working through the lunch hour when I received a text message from one of my business partners. It included a 30-second video clip titled “My Kind of Lunch Break.”

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but when I played it, it instantly brought a smile to my face. It was a video of him biking through the woods on a windy, snowy trail. A few seconds in, his front tire started to wobble and then, sure enough — BOOM, CRASH! The bike hit the ground and the camera was tossed around for a few seconds. When the camera finally came to a stop, you could hear him say, “Still my kind of lunch break.”

I absolutely loved it, and it made me think of a few important lessons that we all need to remember in business and life.

The first lesson that came to mind is that you should never take life too seriously. It can be easy to get stressed out and consumed with work obligations and family matters. When you feel overwhelmed, sometimes the best thing you can do is just take a breath and laugh about whatever has gone wrong. There’s a saying that goes, “Don’t take life too seriously; you’ll never get out of it alive!” That’s a great reminder that we only have one life to live, so you shouldn’t waste your time getting bogged down in negativity.

The video also reminded me of a great quote I once heard from a mentor of mine. He said, “If you aren’t failing at something at least once a day, then you aren’t trying hard enough.” This really motivated me, and I started looking at “failures” as learning experiences that proved I was constantly pushing my limits. It’s easy to stay in your comfort zone, but that won’t help you succeed. Professional growth only comes when you really start to push yourself.



Finally, the video reminded me of the importance of work-life balance. In February, I began working on my own business full time, and I thought that would give me more time for things I enjoyed. In a way it did, because I now have a more flexible schedule. But as an entrepreneur, it’s easy to get so focused on your work that it can be hard to draw the line between your work life and your personal life.

Even when you really enjoy what you do, if you’re exclusively focused on work, you can easily get burned out. Creating a healthy work-life balance is particularly important to millennials, but it should be a top priority for everyone. Make sure you take time to smell the roses … not just the printer paper!

Fast Track Action Items for April:

Over your lunch break, do something active. The weather is finally getting nice outside, so this week when the sun is shining, instead of eating lunch at your desk, get outside and take a walk. Take time to appreciate the outdoors and take your mind off work or anything else that might be causing you stress.
Fail at something. This doesn’t necessarily mean crashing your bike into a tree, but you shouldn’t be afraid to push yourself until you fail. Try cold-calling a big prospect or testing your limits at the gym. If you don’t get the outcome you want, reflect on what you learned and how you can improve and make adjustments to get there.
Take a break. If you’re working long hours, even at something you enjoy, make sure to stop and take a break. Call your spouse, watch an episode of your favorite show, or go to the gym. The more balance you have in your life, the more effective and engaged you will be in everything you do!

I’d love to hear from you! Email me at to let me know what you’re going to do this month to create a better work-life balance — or what you failed at and how you learned from it.

Jenna Atkinson is the president of CONNECT Madison, a young professionals group offering development, community engagement, and relationship-building
opportunities to local business leaders.

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