How to Fail Forward

Failure is a funny thing. For everyone it's a very different animal, and more often than not, it takes many forms. In this article, I’m going to focus on my personal experience regarding how I cope and deal with failure in school and in life in general. I will concentrate on what I have seen that has worked for me. Also, I will highlight tips and tricks from Susan Tardanico, Coach Don Shula, Leon Ho.



One lesson that is so cliché, is that everything happens for a reason. Growing up starting when you are a young child, there is this stigma to continue dreaming about the future,about your dream career, dream house, what your family would like, etc. Although these thoughts and goals can be great ideas to ponder, continuing to focus on the future can sometimes be detrimental to your life in the present. Ever since I was little my parents would say “that’s life” or “life is hard” or “life is not fair”. As time has gone on, I have had moments of weakness and disappointment in various parts of my life. Finding the right mental space to recover can be difficult. That may mean journaling your emotions about your future or seeking guidance from a person you trust. In addition, if religion and faith is important in your life, seek prayer and counsel from your church community. We will always have a bad day, week, month, or year, or some setback, but figuring out how to move forward is the best option.


Letting yourself be upset for a little while is okay and normal. Being tough all the time is not always ideal when it comes to accepting failure and failing forward. It’s okay to not be alright sometimes, but finding that balance between lifting yourself up and moving forward is hard. We need to take time to grieve about either the loss of a job, or the decline from your dream school, etc. According to Susan Tardanico, who wrote the article in Forbes called: “Five Ways To Make Peace With Failure,” one way she highlights is not dwelling on failure. She mentions Don Shula who is a NFL coach and is the only one with the perfect winning season in NFL history. He had a 24 hour rule where his team could either soak up their victory or dwell on their loss. This way he allowed his players to feel their emotions, but after 24 hours they were ready to conquer their next challenge ahead. Not dwelling on the past or a severe loss in life can be hard, but accepting the failure and moving on creates ultimately a better outlook on life and the future.


The real question is: how do we fail forward? For everyone, this may look different. According to Leon Ho, who is the founder and CEO of LifeHack.com, one of the tips he offers is to seek advice. This could be either asking a parent, friend, mentor, or anyone you trust, to help you continue moving forward. Hearing advice from someone you admire or look up to is a great way to gain perspective and create an opportunity for growth in the future. According to Shelly Rodgers who is the CEO of Maxum and a member of the Entrepreneurs' Organization, one of her top goals was to accept reality. Sometimes coming to terms with the event or failure head on is a way to free yourself from the cycle of perpetual guilt and wondering.


Timing is everything and how one bounces back from failure is a key sign of who we are. Being goal oriented and having a game plan or strategy to move on allows us to try not to be stuck in the past. Instead it helps to channel the anger or sadness felt in order to continue to grow and be strong. One instance that comes to mind is applying for jobs and internships. Rejection can take a lot out of you and can feel overwhelming at times. However, creating little things for yourself to check off the list is a great way to continue to stay motivated through the thick of it. Taking small steps toward a goal can boost your overall motivation and likelihood of success.


All in all, failure and disappointment is inevitable at some point in life. But, learning how to grow from and adapt to changes will allow for a far greater perspective. There is no right or wrong way to recover from failure. If you have an open mind and a positive outlook anything is possible in the long run.


By Sarah Viebrock


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