Admiral Mike Mullen rose to the top of the U.S. military and served as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for two presidents.Yet, in his early days as an officer back in the 1970s, his entire career was almost derailed when the first ship under his command crashed into a buoy.
Mullen shared what he went through and how he overcame it in an interview with Harvard Business Review.
It’s a remarkable look at how persistence and determination can help you overcome a critical error.
Here’s what the Admiral told HBR:
“It was the first time I’d really failed in my life. It was the first time my wife, Deborah, had seen me fail. So it was traumatic for both of us. I got an evaluation that by all accounts should have ruined my career.
“But I had a mentor, George Sullivan, whose enthusiasm was really remarkable. He helped me get through it. I fought the system, and it was a long, tedious, difficult process from 1973 to 1984, but I got eventually got that evaluation removed from my record. That gave me a chance to command at least one more time, which I did in 1985. And then I commanded again and again.
“So the lesson for me was: What choice do you make after you fail? Do you just give up? Or do you get up, knowing that you still have an awful lot to give? I chose the second path.
“Too often we just look at these glistening successes. Behind them in many, many cases is failure along the way, and that doesn’t get put into the Wikipedia story or the bio. Yet those failures teach you every bit as much as the successes.”
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