We are approaching that time of year when the stress level for kids graduating from college is deep. The pressure to be “successful” the day after accepting your diploma is real…but probably not realistic.

Indeed, graduating students are already beginning to hear stories of peers who have gotten Fulbright’s or jobs with prestigious company’s, who know their career paths and are well on their way to achieving their goals. As well, they will hear of the stark reality for many; going home to sleep in their childhood bedroom while hunting for any job, let alone one that matches up with their career goals. The uncertainty is daunting, particularly in todays economy.

But my message to graduating seniors: uncertainty is OK.

It’s a fact that most of this year’s graduating class will not be changing the world, at least right now that is. Not this summer, and maybe not this year or even next year. But that’s okay.

In a commencement speech more honest than most, Steve Jobs told a Stanford graduating class that his failures were the very events that led to his success at Apple. Jobs dropped out of college and got fired from his own company. But he cited his failures, and the willingness to take risks, as the sources of his successes. “Getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me,” Jobs said.

In another commencement speech, J.K. Rowling told Harvard graduates she found herself in a position of failure and poverty after graduating college. But she, too, cited her rock-bottom failures as the source of her successes.

Sure, there may not be any Steve Jobs or J.K. Rowling’s in this year’s graduating class, but we can learn an important lesson from them: Failure is what you make of it. Failure can lead to excellence if you let it.

Every job interview for every uninspiring job is preparation for a dream job interview. And every botched interview for a dream job is preparation for a successful interview.

It might feel like failure to move back home but think of it as a constructive experience. Nothing is better preparation for challenging living situations than trying to treat parents as housemates. Each failure, each rejection, each infuriating obstacle is, viewed from another vantage point, not just a steppingstone to success but a necessary exercise in figuring out how to succeed.

So, amid all the anxiety of graduation, seniors should rest easy. Try hard, fail hard, try harder, and succeed in a BIG WAY.

Joe Bouch
CEO, 78Madison

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