It’s natural for young professionals to fear being fired. When we first start out, it seems like the end of the world – a black mark that will follow us forever.
That’s probably an overblown fear. Plenty of people get fired and move on to have excellent careers. We shouldn’t let it scare us so much. When failure’s effects are isolated to us, overcoming them is usually straightforward enough. We can learn from our failures and even brag and laugh about them in retrospect.
What most of us don’t fear nearly enough (and what is much harder to take back) is wasting other peoples’ time and efforts.
If we fail in our positions, we are far from the only people who will bear the cost. The actual sting of being fired will be one of the smallest parts of the damage done. All the time in which we consciously fail to do our jobs to the best of our ability cheats coworkers out of their work. And all of us are guilty of this.
Imagine your own efforts to build your company. How would you feel if all of those efforts failed to achieve success because of someone’s laziness, or lack of discipline, or fear, or arrogance?
It’s easy to miss how we might be the culprits. It’s hard for us to conceive of failure as something that impacts beyond our own career and our own firing. That’s because most of us think like employees, not value creators. Most of us are so focused on our rank and status and resumes. We miss time cost, opportunity cost, and our own responsibility to create more value than we’re taking.
I don’t want to wonder if all my time working has cost my fellow employees their shot at being part of a successful company. I don’t want to wonder if whether I had worked harder I might have helped to enable them to retire early, provide a better life for their kids, or find self-realization in leadership.
We should hate the thought of failing personally. But if we value good work, trust, and the success of our work’s mission, we should be horrified at the thought of thwarting other people’s work. If we are failing them and we know it, we have a responsibility to either shape up or ship out.
It’s a terrifying thought, but it’s a powerful motivator. And it’s matched by the converse thought: if you can succeed in your position, you can have a tremendous impact on wealth, happiness, confidence, and career success not just for yourself, but for everyone else in the game with you.
Choose the good path. Don’t fail yourself by failing them.