Trading Perfection for Rubber: Why the Will to Succeed Requires a Willingness to Fail

29 Mar 2011 11:50 AM | Anonymous

The Ad Club’s Women’s Leadership Forum on Monday showcased a host of accomplished and inspiring working women who’ve made their mark in a range of industries – from law to technology, from restaurant ownership to astrophysics. They have all experienced great success in their careers, and on Monday almost all of them stressed the importance of being willing to fail.

Beth Tauro, Business Development Manager for Edwards, Angell, Palmer & Dodge LLP, went a step further in her advice. She quoted her father’s “Rubber Ass Theory”: “When you get knocked down, it’s how you bounce back that counts.”


Mistakes are so vital, and inevitable, that our anatomy had better be ready to deflect the shock when we stumble and get us back on our feet. The prevailing message was clear: the most important thing for working women – for anyone who aspires to achieve great things – is having a willingness to take risks.

Intellectually, we all know this advice is right. But psychologically – and emotionally – do we buy it?

In the days leading up to the Women’s Leadership Forum A&G surveyed 250 women around the country who are working or actively looking to return to the workforce. Intellectually, they agree with our Women Leaders – 89% of the women we surveyed say it’s important for women to take risks in order to succeed. But of those women, 39% of them say they haven’t taken many risks in their careers.

Where is this disconnect coming from?

Professor Renee Landers put it best at Monday’s event: the highest standards and most intense pressures working women strive to live up to are the ones we put on ourselves. Our A&G survey results confirm Professor Landers’ point: 90% of the women we surveyed say theytry to be superheroes at work and at home.

This self-imposed pressure to deliver superhero perfection, when we’re at work and when we’re home, is not only unattainable – it’s holding us back in our quest for professional success. Making us unwilling to fail. Unwilling to make mistakes. Unwilling to take the risks that must be taken to learn and grow and ultimately achieve a greater level of success.

In order to succeed in a “man’s world” – or in any scenario – women must rebel against that superhero mindset that’s ingrained in almost all of us. Forget being a superhero – they’re the stuff of fantasy for a reason. And be willing to take a risk that might lead to failure. Because it’s the only thing that will lead to greatness.

And when we stumble – and we all will – our rubber asses will bounce us on to the next, better step.


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