Every career is different.
But, anecdotally, the below trajectory is a common path I see amongst people who have accomplished a lot for others.
Of course, there are other paths, but for what’s it worth, here are some thoughts on this path.
High Achiever Phase
At the beginning of your education and career, you are for the most part only accountable for your own performance, as well as perhaps the performance of a few others.
If you can execute, you can get a lot done. This is not to say that there won’t be ups and downs as you progress, but, professionally speaking, the ups and downs will be bound within a reasonable range and the overall trajectory will be up.
Failure, Massive Learning, Recovery
Then, at some point you will really fail.
Sometimes this failure will be known to the world; sometimes it will be known to your management team; sometimes it will be known by your board; sometimes it will only be known to you.
Given that there’s only so much you can fuck up when you’re early in your career and individually executing, your first spectacular failure will generally happen when you’re managing a large initiative, team, or organization.
Some people recover from this and some don’t.
Generally speaking, perseverance, self-awareness, ambition, constant learning, and a deep drive for improvement help someone rebound from major failure (which might be one event or a dark year or two).
I also imagine certain elements of privilege (social capital, race, money, etc.) help, which is unfair.
Sometimes people have to change roles or organizations to fully rebound.
Sometimes they don’t.
Ideally, the lessons of your failure are engrained so deeply that you never fail this hard again.
I don’t think it is great for an individual, in the career sense, to fail fast and to fail often.
You should improve enough that you train yourself to mitigate major downsides while giving yourself shots at high upsides.
Some of your upsides will hit for reasonable successes, while some will hit for astounding successes.
But spectacular failures should generally be avoided.
With a good understanding of your own strengths and weaknesses, you should be able to build the right teams and enter into the right situations to give yourself a decent chance of doing great things for others.
Once you’ve entered The Climb, you can get in a virtuous cycle of challenge, growth, and success.
Unfortunately, Massive Failure is often the entry ticket to The Climb.