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Mar 18, 2024

Failure Leads to Success

When everything is working fine and chugging along, we are unlikely to change and unlikely to grow. But when we fail, we either give up, or we learn from it—we adapt and improve.

By: Brie Minarik

“Failure is another stepping stone to greatness.”

Those wise words come from Oprah Winfrey, who was once demoted from her job as a news anchor because she “wasn’t fit for television.”

Arianna Huffington is another powerful businesswoman who has known failure. Her second book was rejected by 36 publishers. Yet she went on to author 13 more books and founded The Huffington Post. She said, “Failure is not the opposite of success, it’s part of success.”

This list of people goes on because behind every great success story is a path littered with stories of failure.

My career in energy efficiency—from call center rep to home energy specialist to director of training and workforce development—has been a wonderful journey, marked by new skills, new responsibilities, and, I’ll admit it, my fair share of failure.

The author during an energy assessment.

I used to think that failure was something to be avoided at all costs. But as I’ve progressed, my opinion has changed. When everything is working fine and chugging along, we are unlikely to change and unlikely to grow. But when we fail, we either give up, or we learn from it—we adapt and improve.

When I first got my start in energy efficiency, it was as a customer service intake representative. I was much more interested in being a home energy specialist or doing solar sales, but I did not even apply for either role. I assumed I had no chance; that I didn’t have the right experience or background knowledge. I was afraid of failure, so I did not even try.

Luckily for me, while I was working that customer intake role, I was introduced to a home energy specialist named Sarah. She told me that she also had no background or prior experience for the role, but that the company had provided all the required training. She opened my eyes to the possibility that I could be successful in that role. Or that, at a minimum, I should give it a shot.

While I was still nervous of failing, I gained the courage to try. I didn’t know the difference between a stud and a joist, or a thing about heating systems, but I learned! I sold insulation jobs that were spec’d to perfection, and I sold some that were far from it. I missed bulk moisture in a home and had the crew walk from the same job twice.

I had a homeowner misunderstand my instructions and he shut off the electricity to his entire house and it took us over an hour to figure out how to get it back on. I found central AC in someone’s home that had faulty wires and was using $100 of electricity a month when it wasn’t even on. Some homeowners loved me, and some clearly didn’t. I learned to provide a great experience to my customers and a lot of that was by learning from visits where I failed.

The author speaking to a customer after an energy assessment on their home.

Most of my career in energy efficiency has been focused on workforce development. One of the major tenets I teach my trainers, and my trainers pass along to our teams, is to embrace failure. There are parts of the training that are built out to repeat until the trainee gets at least 90% correct. There have been plenty of times where the trainee got 89% and asked, “Was that close enough to 90%?” I always tell them with a smile, “This is better that you didn’t pass. I would rather you repeat it and learn it, than have just guessed it correctly the first time.”

As trainers, we get to create scenarios where it is safe to fail. The consequences are small, and trying again is easy. But if we want to be successful in the field, in the real world, we must accept that failure will be a part of the process. It will be uncomfortable and that’s okay.

That role that you don’t have the background or experience for? Give it a shot, because the only way you are going to get the experience is by trying. And remember, it’s okay to fail. As long as you learn from it, you will continue to grow, and find success just around the corner.

headshot of Brie Minarik

Brie Minarik
Director of Training & Safety

Brie Minarik is the Director of Training & Safety for HomeWorks Energy—a Massachusetts-based home performance and HVAC company that supports a greener way of living.


  1. Steven Nielsen on March 21, 2024 at 10:12 am

    Awesome story. Keep dominating Brie!

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