It is a rainy day in 2008. It is cold and damp outside. You are walking down a busy city street. You see a veterinary hospital. You decide to go inside.


You pull on the wet door handle. You brush the raindrops off your coat. It is very quiet inside. At first you don’t think anyone is around. Then you look around the corner. You see someone leaning over a table. You look more closely and realize that you see a woman trying to pull blood from a cat. This is her fifteenth attempt at pulling blood in the past month but she still is not able to do it.


You wonder to yourself: If she has pulled blood 15 times without success, will she ever succeed?


This was me. It was almost 10 years ago. I was at the beginning of my career as a veterinary technician. I was excited to embark on my new career. But I had difficulty with even basic veterinary technician skills such as pulling blood.


I want to tell you that bookish things come fairly easily to me. I am what you would call a big nerd.


I come by my nerdiness honestly. My family is nerdy. My husband is nerdy. My origins stem from an incident of nerdiness in August 1963. On this day my father introduced himself to my mother by showing her his new world atlas. She absolutely loved his atlas. It was love at first sight. They decided not to wait to marry. They made the sound decision to marry in December because they would have a better income tax return the following April.


As you can see, I was born into nerdom. But although I was booksmart, I lacked other skills. (It is a known fact in my family that I received a D in gym class in grade two because I could not bounce a ball.) I have usually failed miserably at things that involved a mind-body connection.


While I was fortunate to have a supportive boss and co-workers, those early days as a technician were not easy. I got really used to failing at things. I felt like I was surrounded by sporty types of people who were naturals. Almost nothing came naturally to me. I put a strain on others. I almost gave up completely.


Because I failed so much, I had to do things over and over. Every time I pulled blood the wrong way, I would do it again. When I failed, I learned that that was the wrong way to do it. In many ways, I was ruling out the ways not to do things. So, I would try a different way to do it. Usually that did not work either. So then I would attempt it in another way.


I worked – as I still do – at a high-volume practice. It was a stroke-of-luck in many ways. I had many opportunities to do things over and over. I had countless people willing to offer their expertise. I jumped at every single chance I could to do things. And then I failed at all of those chances. And I then failed at even more chances.


But eventually something happened. It took a very long time. Something clicked.


I finally learned how to pull blood.


But I also learned something else: Every time you fail at something, you have practiced. You may fail ninety-nine times, but each time you did it, you were practicing.


Sometimes we are so bogged down in failure that we cannot see the process. If I could go back to 2008, I would tell that new technician who is struggling that every failure brings you another step closer to success.


Every failure is actually an opportunity to practice that skill. Failure makes you practice. Practice leads to mastery. Mastery leads to success.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the editorial team.


In 2016 Kathleen obtained her Veterinary Technician Speciality in Clinical Practice (Canine/Feline). In addition to her work in the veterinary industry, Kathleen has worked in group homes for people with mental health concerns for almost twenty years. Kathleen lives in Nova Scotia, Canada with her husband, five cats, and a 15-year-old rescued Pomeranian, named Giovanni.