Pay Attention to Failure

What is failure telling you?

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

What if we pay attention to failure, really think about what it is trying to teach us, and make future decisions based on our past failures? We can approach failure in many ways. We can decide to ignore our failures and move along. We can feel shame about them and not address them. There are so many ways to deal with failure. We could think about each failure and wonder what it can teach us. What is a failure trying to tell you? As my yoga teacher would say…Falling out of a position is an invitation to try again. That is how I am trying to embrace failure nowadays. Failure is an invitation to get back in and learn from it.

When I was just out of college, I moved to New York City and started my job search. I went on job interview after interview in the NYC publishing world. Many of my friends were entering this field of work so I thought I would try as well. That’s when some significant failures began! I messed up almost every interview. Initially, I ignored the failures and kept going. It was only after several failed interviews that I wondered what was happening. What was I doing to contribute to these failures? I didn’t research the job or the company. I did not practice questions beyond the basics and I was unprepared. I was not positioning myself to succeed but rather to fail. Why did I not position myself to do better? After much thought, I realized that I did not want to work in publishing and that I needed to find the right field. These job failures were invitations to search for a field I was truly interested in pursuing. I ended up in graduate school for education and began my 30-year career. If I had ignored that failure for longer, I might be in a different place today.

How to Reflect on Failure

  • Identify the failure/mistake.
  • What did you do to contribute to the failure? What role did you play? How did you position yourself?
  • What patterns are you noticing about the types of failures you experience regularly?
  • What is this failure trying to teach you? How can you position yourself differently in the future?
  • Is there an invitation to try again?

These failed job interviews needed to happen so that I could realize that I was on the wrong path. I had to pay attention to these mistakes so I could spend the time and energy to think about what I wanted to do rather than follow my peers. One thing I have learned is that things happen so we can learn from them and they keep happening until we truly learn from them. Failures need to happen and they are not bad and should not be ignored or shamed. Failure is an invitation to Practice, Reflect, and Improve.