5 Ways to Your Best Year: Fail Forward
Keith Major

The heat of shame raced up my neck and face in a telltale blush. I heard shame in my voice as my words tumbled over each other trying to escape my mouth into the microphone that weighed down my hands. In front of a room of my peers…I was failing. I should have been able to answer my coach’s questions. But I neglected to prepare. My mind pleaded a desperate silent prayer, “Lord, help me.”

Then, it was over. Only thing left was my embarrassment and a pounding headache. I couldn’t concentrate. In fact, all I could do was replay my stumbling imbecilic response over and over again in my mind. Meanwhile, the class moved on, and I realized that if I wanted to learn, I had to put my failure behind me.

At times, we all miss the mark, drop the ball and neglect to do our homework. In short, we all fail! But even though failure is inevitable, it doesn’t have to be fatal to our dreams and growth. That’s why I chose to get over my embarrassment and not allow the past to set the course for my future. If we have the right perspective on our mistakes, we can fail forward. As we prepare for 2013, let’s get over the things that have been hanging over us. Let’s start with failure.

We fail forward when we choose to allow failure to be a stepping-stone to greater growth. We can capitalize on our failures when we understand that:

1. Failure can be a great teacher: If we choose to learn the lessons that failure can teach, we gain wisdom. Don’t be afraid to analyze and evaluate your mistakes. When we can’t face our mistakes, it means we have invested too much in an image of perfection. Though the initial instinct might be to sweep our mistakes under the rug, we must resist it. One of the best ways to get something right is by examining how we did it wrong the first time!

2. If you don’t own your failures, they will own you:  Unexamined failure can be carbon monoxide to our spirits. Invisible and unnoticed, it slowly kills our hopes, dreams and ambitions when unaddressed. If you don’t decide what your failures mean, they will define you. When starting my business I made many mistakes. For five years, I allowed my shame over those bad decisions to keep me from pursuing my vision. I thought my failure disqualified me from my purpose. Once I faced my mistakes, I was able to see where I went wrong and make the necessary adjustments. 

3. We fail for lack of knowledge but you can educate your ignorance: We fail for one of three reasons. We either don’t know, we don’t have or we don’t do. If your failure is linked to a lack of resources and support, but you did the best you could—it isn’t a failure. You had unreasonable expectations. If you failed because you didn’t know, then it is your responsibility to educate yourself. Find someone who did it right and ask them how they did it! If you failed because of what you didn’t do, then taking the right actions will change the outcome the next time around. 

Live It! Face your failures! Where are you living in shame because of failure? Journal about the experience and then uncover two to three ways that your life has or can be better based on the lessons you’ve learned. Join me next week as we discuss the next step toward shaping your best year!

Recently named the 2012 “North America’s Next Greatest Speaker” by eWomenNetwork, Felicia T. Scott is a Certified Empowerment Coach™ who shares transformational truths with practical wisdom, humor and insight. Follow her on Twitter.