When it comes to epic failures I’ve had a few, but most pale in comparison to my career as a waiter when I was sacked during my first shift, writes Phil Brown.
When it comes to epic failures I’ve had a few, but most pale in comparison to my career as a waiter when I was sacked during my first shift, writes Phil Brown.

'I was sacked on my first night on the job'

OPINION

There's a great scene in Seinfeld that involves Jerry throwing one of his stand-up comedy sets. He bombs on purpose to sabotage the guy following him, Kenny Bania, the world's worst comedian.

Afterwards Jerry's in the wings gloating. "Ah, the sweet stench of failure," he says. Watching that episode again recently I thought - yep, I know that smell. Who doesn't, right?

A wonderful little book crossed my desk the other day. It's called How To Fail Fantastically by Melburnian writer Ken Williams.

"At last a self-help guide that's actually achievable", the cover blurb promises.

I urge you to get a copy. It's a hoot. But it is also wise because it values failure. And it set me thinking about my many failures. I have had a modicum of success in life but there was a litany of failures along the way and they helped build a certain resilience.

Phil Brown. Picture: AAP/ Ric Frearson
Phil Brown. Picture: AAP/ Ric Frearson

My first big failure was on the Gold Coast when I was 17. I got a job as a waiter in the Celebrity Room at the Broadbeach International Hotel. I was worse than Manuel from Fawlty Towers and was sacked the first night. I threw a bread roll at one of the customers, so what? It just happened that the manager saw it.

A couple of summers later I got a holiday job as a labourer on the Hinze Dam. It was like a hellish scene from Spartacus with the slaves toiling away in the salt mines. I wasn't much of a worker and was ejected from the site shortly after the foreman witnessed my efforts. I was so glad I failed at that job!

Then I tried selling fire extinguishers. I went up and down the Gold Coast for a week without selling one.

Of course there were many other failures to come. None of them felt good at the time but now I embrace them. I mean excellence is all well and good but we can't all be excellent all the time, can we? But every one of us can fail.

As author Ken Williams says: "If you don't know how to fail, you'll never be successful."

So go for it. Fail. You know it makes sense.

Originally published as I was sacked on my first night on the job



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