Jeff Michalski, founder of the famed comedy club and the Second City, told comedian Stephen Colbert and his improvisational students, “You have to learn to love the bomb.”  

Colbert explains further,  “It took me a long time to really understand what it meant.  It wasn’t ‘Don’t worry, you’ll get it next time.’ It wasn’t ‘Laugh it off.’ No, it means what it says.  You gotta learn to love when you’re failing . . . the embracing of that, the discomfort of failing in front of an audience, leads you to penetrate through the fear that blinds you.”  

As I look over the 27 years of being a veterinarian, I can tell you one thing – I have failed many times. I vividly remember one such failure.

I have had the opportunity to participate in starting two emergency animal hospitals.  One with a group of 15 other practice owners – it has become very successful and has been a pillar of our county for over 18 years.  In 2012, after opening a general practice in another county, I went to my fellow practice owners to open a similar ER model that I found so successful.   

Well, after close to two years of operating this ER in this county, it was a complete failure.  We simply could not get the traction or referrals we needed to take this ER practice to the next level.  Sadly, we had to sell the ER practice – as a result, I felt I left my other partners down.

Whitney Johnson writes in her wonderful book, “Build An A-Team,” – ask yourself these questions when you have experienced failure:

  1. Begin with the why the failure happened.  What could have been improved?
  2. Was the failure the result of lack of effort or due to trying something new and having it not work?
  3. Is this person failing because they were in the wrong role?
  4. Any unrealistic expectations partly to blame for the failure?
  5. How quickly will you recover from failure?

Learn to value failure in the education it can bring to you professionally and personally.  It is the price one has to take in order to venture into the frontier of the learning curve of being a veterinarian.  Every successful person I know has experienced some aspect of failure in their professional life.

Take failure like a comedian, and learn to love the bomb.