But we really can't know our limits if we don't sometimes test them.
So how do we reconcile the fact that we may "fail" sometimes and still be successful practitioners?
I can't say that every project I've ever managed has been a complete success. Not all of them have been delivered to full scope, on time and within budget. Nevertheless, I'm happy with my career and believe I'm a successful project manager.
Clearly, there's more to career success than simply stringing together a run of successful projects. I don't know anyone who has done so. (And if I did, I would wonder if they might consider taking on a more challenging project next time.)
There's a component of success that has to do with achievement and pushing ourselves beyond personal limitations. Not everyone is so forgiving of our project failures, but we must see the failures in the context of personal growth and our overall career.
Career success is in the eye of the beholder.
Whether or not we consider ourselves successful has to do in part with how we react when our projects fall short of complete success.
If we emerge from project failure smarter, wiser, stronger, better -- or just humbler from the experience -- we are prepared to achieve a greater level of success.
It's scary, but I think in the end we will judge ourselves more harshly if we don't explore and extend our limits than if we stay comfortably within them.
Net: Fail to succeed.
What do you think? Can failure eventually lend itself to career success?