The Art of Failing Foward

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Have you ever faced adversity?

Have you ever not gotten exactly what you want?

Have you ever dealt with disappointment?

Have you ever had the best laid plans, only to watch them not work out as you thought they should?

These are all things that we deal with each day. Whether it’s the gas station being out of your coffee or not getting a promotion that you felt you both deserved and have worked hard for. We face disappointment each and every day, it can be an unfortunate part of life. The most important part about any disappointment or adversity that we may face is how we bounce back.

I was recently at a breakfast with a group of God fearing men and the organic conversation that developed was about relationships. Yes, you read that right! A group of men sitting around a table at Frisch’s discussing relationships. It was at this breakfast where I was introduced to a concept that I understood but never really conceptualized in the terms that a gentleman presented at that moment. We were discussing how to handle relationships that don’t go as planned or any situation that we feel was a failure, and this gentleman made this statement. “You have not failed yet because you aren’t dead! We cannot look at failure as the end. It’s important to understand what you get out of failure. Failure is only a setback if you let it be. In reality you have to learn how to fail forward!”

At that moment I realized my mind was blown. Failing forward… how could such a novel concept escape me for so long. I have always felt that you have to “bounce back” when things don’t go your way but the art of failing forward. When you look at failure from that angle, do you ever really fail. In the conversation we were having at that moment, we were discussing how much information you get from a “failed” relationship and how you are able to discern what you really want in a partner more after you have been with and experienced what you don’t want. But this is something that can be applied to every part of your life.

Just for clarification, the art of failing forward is another way of saying, taking the information that you gain from any failure, and utilizing it to progress closer toward your goals.

We are a given an opportunity each time something does not go as planned. The opportunity that is available is the opportunity to respond. The opportunity to respond is a gift if you really consider the possible implications of your response. That response is you failing forward! You don’t get your specific type of coffee, well maybe this is an opportunity for you to try a flavor you have been eyeing for a while, but you never wanted to stray away from what you know you like. You didn’t get the promotion you thought you deserved, maybe the job you are supposed to be doing hasn’t been posted yet. Maybe your skills are more suited for a higher job than what you applied for.

I watch my kids fail and learn every day. Most recently I have watched my oldest son who has aspirations to play college basketball, fail forward and I couldn’t be more proud. He suffered an injury while playing AAU this spring. It was not a season ending injury or something that was going to have a long term impact on his career but it was a setback none the less. Due to this injury, he lost the explosion and athleticism, which he has relied on his entire athletic career. When the injury initially happened I watched as he struggled to find his basketball identify with his newfound lack of athleticism. He was angry, sad, frustrated and worried that he would never be the same. As a parent who played sports and have had similar injuries, you try to explain that this injury will not define him and explain that he has to stay the course and keep working hard to work through the injury, but he was not able to wrap his head around these conversations because he was so defeated. He and I never had a conversation about failing forward, but we have had many conversations about hard work and resilience. I just hoped that at some point those conversations would kick in and he would apply the tools we have been instilling in him over the years. After a few weeks of trying to continue to train the way he has always trained he realized he can’t do some of the same stuff and he started to transition his training into a slow deliberate workout. He began to focuse more on the small intricacies of basketball and his basketball IQ as compared to his ability to beat people with his athleticism. Instead of having conversations with him about exploding to the rim and getting by people, we started to have conversations about body positioning, jab steps, creating space without athleticism and most importantly controlling the pace of the game. Throughout this process he has learned to fail forward. He took his injury and was able to turn a setback into a step forward. I expect great things from him in the future and if you are interested check out some of his highlights from last year below:

DeAnte Gray Highlight 1

DeAnte Gray Highlight 2

There are a lot of examples that I could outline that have taken place in my life both previously and very recently, both personally and professionally. I am learning each week that I have opportunities to fail forward constantly. I have also learned that in order for us to recognize some of these opportunities you have to be held accountable by someone close to you. Someone you trust enough to be honest with you about when you are spending too much time wallowing in self pity. Someone you know can help identify opportunities to gain something when things don’t go your way. 

It is easy to get down on yourself and your situation when things do not go as you expected them to go. As a human you cannot turn off your emotions so taking a moment to not be happy about something not working out is ok. The key, is not letting your current situation or any situation to define you. You have to fail forward with every opportunity. The knowledge that you gain from every failure is information that can be applied to ensure you do not fail the same way next time.

Everyone will experience failure at some point in their lives. The sooner you are able to recognize the importance of knowledge gained from each situation, the sooner you will be able to utilize this information to catapult you to your next success.

Every day we have an opportunity to Fail Forward, Don miss your chance!

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