Scanning the list of newly minted Goldman Sachs partners I had mixed emotions.
Seeing some familiar names I was delighted for those who made it, but I was disappointed for those who didn’t, particularly one buy-sider.
When I spoke to him he was devastated. Frustrated. Angry. Upset. Experiencing every emotion that comes with giving your best and failing.
But that didn’t stop me from vigorously congratulating him and suggesting a celebration is in order.
Surprised, he asked: “What do you mean? We failed, I didn’t get my result, you don’t get half your fee, what is there to be celebrating?”
“We are celebrating giving it your best shot. We are celebrating the tremendous progress you have made taking your career to another level. We are celebrating who you have become in striving for a goal that was out of reach.” I responded.
Michael Jordan said, “I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.” And that is exactly how my client thinks.
I first met with him eighteen months ago when I was stationed in London for a couple of months we began kicking around the idea of whether he might make partner this year.
It was an outside shot. Far from being a lay-up, it wasn’t even a long three-pointer, it was more like standing at center court throwing the ball backwards over your head hoping to land the shot.
Having been promoted quickly to managing director, it was highly unlikely he would be promoted quickly to partner. At first he estimated he had a 10% probability of success, and as we talked it over we thought we could get it to 25%, perhaps a 50-50 shot.
So I asked him, “Is that worth it?”
“Absolutely” he said, “I have never been the tortoise and I want to do everything I can to accelerate my career.”
And that’s what we did.
Unleashing all the angles, driving the three tracks you can learn more about in The Guide, we focused on his external track—building commercial success—his internal track—influencing the firm—and his development track, building him into the best he can be.
It takes guts to train your sights on what you truly want, especially when the odds are stacked against you. Yet often, it is not a matter of whether you succeed, but whether you are even in the game.
It is easy to hang back and take what comes to you. It easy to make up excuses as to why it wasn’t your year, yet there is no greater reward than going after a hard goal and seeing who you become in the process.
And although my clients don’t always get the results they want, particularly when we are targeting a low probability outcome, even when they lose, they still win.
If you are buying a security you want multiple ways you can win on your investment, and we designed our process knowing that if he didn’t make partner, he would still win.
By taking his game to an entirely different level, and elevating his stature in the industry, this year he received a number of lucrative job offers. Also, based on his incredible performance this year he will certainly receive a sizeable boost in comp.
Of course this is a consolation prize for the goal he failed to reach, yet when you go after it in your career your consolation prize can be a far better outcome than those who simply fail to reach.
As Norman Vincent Peale said, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”
In our society we celebrate success, yet those hard-charging losers who give it their best shot against the odds are just as surely winners to me.