Angus Blair: Failure 1.0

This post is a bit depressing so you might want to skip to the end where I try to impart some wisdom from this mess.

The story so far

I spoke about it's merit a lot last year, but transparency is often a huge problem when shit hits the fan. I wouldn't have put this information up last month when applications were still flying around the place but I'm happy to be honest about it all now. Last year when I was a fresh idealistic student to Auckland University, I applied for and received an offer from Deloitte consulting.  This was the only company I applied for and though I was ecstatic to receive the offer I do admit to feelings of incompleteness about it.

So when we got to November, this feeling of incompleteness crept over me. 2008 had been so good to me, for the first time in 4 years I was surrounded with friends that were actually like me, I was having a lot of fun and really enjoying the work I was doing everyday. The club scene was fantastic with opportunities abound for involvement if I stayed. All this combined the the ambition of an international PhD on the long term horizon, the Masters programme just made sense to me.

So I chose. I would pull out of my contract with Deloitte, in the middle of a recession, and pursue my masters degree as well. Despite all the reasons above, I'd be lying if that was all there was to it. Of course I wanted to try my hand at other more prestigious opportunities, coming back represented a chance to live the dream. And I went for it.

However this year didn't really go as planned, lots of scholarships were not on offer, because it seems a recession can get you even inside this ivory tower. What's more the job market is of course much worse. So the news finally broke this morning, I will officially not be working at Deloitte next year. In addition, none of the other four consulting applications I put through panned out as planned either. This essentially puts my ambition to go into consulting, an ambition that has driven my entire professional development 'til now, quietly to rest.

Tell me about a time you have failed?

This was the question I answered most poorly at the Deloitte Assessment centre last Thursday (Think 8 hours observation while we chat, solve cases, interview etc). I talked about my time on the New Zealand Tae Kwon Do team, coming 2nd in an Australasian invitational, but to be honest it's a bad story to tell, there is little to be learned from what happened. But I also realised I've been extremely lucky or quite oblivious when it comes to my experiences with failure. Before this year I haven't had many failures, at least none that I have been wise enough to rigorously reflect on.

Now, after the last few months, I have a better story, one truly worth learning from. Simply I think it goes as follows; sometimes in life we take risks that we assume don't apply to us. What's worse, we take psychological and practical precautions so we can at least partake in the illusion that we ourselves are not to blame.

I spoke to six mentors last year before making a decision to do my masters instead of take the job offer with Deloitte. But sometimes getting this sort of advice is an engineered fallacy, deep down I knew I could convince them all that I was making the best choice. I would rather lie to myself and them so as to at least create the illusion of consensus that I was making a good decision. Again, arrogant that since I thought it was a good idea they all should as well, better to convince them of that than be wrong.

Where to from here

When I look all around at my heroes and successful people in general. They've all had there fair share of setbacks but they somehow make them look like they were meant to be. It was Steve Jobs who said that it's only with hindsight that you can connect the dots and this was after flunking out of college and getting kicked out of a company he had co-founded, sure he was a millionaire, but kicked out nonetheless.

So it's my turn to make it look easy, or 'meant to be' as everyone keeps telling me. I don't believe in any higher power or fatalistic bullshit though now would be a good time to convince myself on it. But I do believe that good, talented people, know how to make the most of their failures. I'm not one of them yet, but this might be the time I become one.