5-Minute Lightning Talk on Career Failure

ARA Co-Founder and McCann Partners’ CEO Megan McCann presented a five-minute lightning talk to a crowd of 200+ during a recent Women in Tech breakfast hosted by General Assembly. Each of five speakers were asked to answer a specific question. Here’s what Megan had to answer, along with her response. We hope you find it of value and consider for yourself, how would you answer this question?

What is the biggest failure you have faced in your career, what did you learn from it, and how did it impact your decisions and/or focus afterwards?

For me, it was fear and I actually am in recovery after letting fear almost decide my future.

Sound familiar to any of you?

Mid-year last year, McCann Partners experienced what I will call a perfect storm. And by perfect, I mean anything that could go wrong did go wrong. Since founding the company more than 5 years ago, I had been so fortunate. Year-over-year, things were progressing so positively and then, suddenly, it felt like everything was imploding.

I was paralyzed, watching all of the great work my team helped me achieve the past 5+ years go down the drain. In hindsight, I realize this is an exaggerated statement, but it was what I was feeling and it was solely based on fear.

So frightened, I almost walked away. I simply could not see the positives—I was looking for an out. I failed to take stock in myself and my team… in what we were capable of and what we already had accomplished.

Fear breeds self-doubt. It impacts confidence and an ability to make good and thoughtful decisions. It plays into imposture syndrome.

I can share with you the journey last year was not easy—anything but. Reflecting, one of the most profound lessons learned is that the temptation to quit will be greatest just before you are about to succeed. Because I finally was able to look myself in the mirror and face the fear, I am here today as CEO and Founder of McCann Partners, a Chicago-based IT recruiting firm, as well as Co-Founder of ARA, an organization committed to attracting, retaining and advancing women in technology and leadership.

I would like to share with you that I faced my fears with strength and grace. I did not. I realize there were relationships that were impacted. For that, I am truly sorry. I am not, however, sorry for the experience. I actually am incredibly grateful for the lessons learned. Last year will not be the only time when I will face these types of challenges…personally or professionally.

The learning prompted me to compile a growing list of mantras to help keep fear at bay. I would like to share them with you today.

  • Adapt. Change is the only constant so turn it into positive momentum.
  • Ask. If you don’t, you won’t give someone the opportunity to say yes.
  • Be Confident. Believe in yourself and your abilities…others will follow.
  • Find Allies. Know who is in your corner and how to leverage their advice and counsel.
  • Inspire Others. Use your gifts to give back. Don’t just consume, contribute!
  • Keep Perspective. If you focus too intently on pleasing others, you’ll please no one while losing yourself in the process.
  • Know Your Super Power. You have one—we all do!
  • Love What You Do. You will never work a day in your life if you truly love what you do.
  • Make Mistakes. You take away lessons not only from your victories but from every single one of your defeats, no matter how great or small.
  • Take Risks. The only risk you’ll ever regret is the one you didn’t take.
  • Work Hard. Success is determined by attitude and effort.

And, above all, BE FEARLESS. Witness what is possible when you fight for something bigger than yourself.

Thank you for having me today.

You can learn more about Megan here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/meganpmccann.