Courage to be candid

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Courage to be candid

The author is the head of fol:in at the JoongAng Ilbo.

There are different versions of ourselves living in all of us. It’s not strange to tell yourself, “Let’s go for it today!” in the morning, or later think “I’m too tired, and I want to give up” in the evening. We are living in a world where it’s not strange to get tired. We don’t know how our workplace and life may change tomorrow.

Where does true consolation come from in this time? Last Saturday, I attended a small gathering to share stories of failure at a pub. Of course, we were being very careful to stay safe. I listened to three speakers while wearing a face mask. They had uncommon stories. In a lecture, we often hear the secrets to success, but they only talked about their experiences of failure.

Let me share the story of the first speaker, Jeong Hyo-jin. Having worked for international IT companies like YouTube and Yahoo, he went into the travel industry. At a German lodging intermediary company, he became in charge of business development in Korea. Jeong had a deal to move to the German headquarters after proving his abilities. His children even transferred school to prepare to move. Then Covid-19 hit.

Jeong became a market trader at an open market and shared the experience of buying 1,000 pairs of socks, ending up with a huge pile of inventory and trying to sell tumblers for kids but getting rejected by the factory for the order being too small and learning from selling candy gift sets.

Jeong couldn’t tell his family that he had quit the company and became a market trader and felt pressured whenever he saw the inventory filling up to fill half of his office.

It is human instinct to show off, so why did Jeong decide to share his experience of failure?

“I think many people are struggling like me, and I want to tell them they are not alone,” he said. “I also wanted to sum up what has happened so far for myself.”

While stories of failure of various scale were shared, the atmosphere didn’t feel heavy. Instead, there was more applause and laughter than at other gatherings.

“I was worried it would be depressing, but I actually feel energized,” said an attendee.

I don’t think it was a consolation to hear other people’s misfortune. Rather, the courage to share how hard things are made people feel comforted.

“Things can be hard for anyone, and you can talk about it.” I will share more brave stories from the meeting soon.

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