FAILING FORWARD

“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” Denis Waitley

Being a recovering perfectionist, I’ve often found it hard to get over failures; most of mine have been perceived failures because my picture of success was striving for perfection instead of pushing for excellence.

Over the years, I have begun to follow the lives and experiences of women who seem to handle life, its successes, and its setbacks in stride. They are successful women who model tenacity, creativity, wisdom, business acumen, and self-love; they are living models of how to handle high points and low points. In all things they do, they strive for excellence, settle for nothing less, and make plain the method of their madness.

One of these women is Myleik Teele. A gifted, take-charge, go-for-the-gold entrepreneur, she is the founder and CEO of CurlBox. Over the last year or so, she has become a distant mentor for me in areas like leadership, teambuilding, balancing personal and professional, and accomplishing goals. I’ve used many of her posts and updates to keep myself encouraged and uplifted. Over the summer, I learned that in conjunction with her social media sites, website, and business, she also has a podcast; so naturally, I started to listen. 

The first podcast I heard was titled “Failing Forward: How to Win by Losing.” As I listened and took notes, I felt like she was talking right to me. It seemed like she had been sitting on my shoulder throughout my entire life, experienced my negative reactions to failure, and decided to have a five-point conversation with me about how to change my perspective on failures in my life in order to foster more growth and success.

She first says you should “ask yourself, what did the failure teach you?” Sometimes, the lesson is as simple as you weren’t ready for whatever you were pursuing. Or sometimes, you will find that if you’re honest, you didn’t have a passion for your project; the lack of passion could have contributed to the failure because you lacked zeal and grit.

Along with understanding the lesson that the failure taught you, Myleik also expresses a very poignant point: “Failure is an event, not a person.” So often, we as perfectionists, overachievers, and doers label ourselves as failures when projects and tasks don’t pan out well. (You know – “I am such a failure!” “Man, I fail at life!” Yep, those and more!) You are not a failure. I am not a failure. We are not failures. We may have made poor decisions or pursued a project that God did not intend for us to have, but those actions are merely events and moments in time, not definitions of ourselves. Myleik stressed the point that oftentimes, the failure “simply closes a door, so you can be free to pursue other opportunities.”

Having the right perspective about failure opens your mind to the possibilities that are still available after failure once you recognize and accept the lesson failure is meant to teach you. When you have the right perspective, you can take the lesson and set out to try again. “Failing and then trying again says something huge about you to society and the universe.”

It confirms that you are a person of substance, and one mishap doesn’t kill your dreams or your drive. Part of having the right perspective is realizing that “sometimes, failure is a blessing. It is a blessing sometimes to not get what you want.” God and the Universe know better than we do the feats and challenges we are equipped to handle. The blessing is also in the lessons that the failures teach us. Sometimes, we are thrust into situations that fail because it is the only way to humbly learn the lessons we need.

The final and most encompassing point of Myleik’s podcast was that “failure teaches us to welcome change.” Failure is often redirection; when one idea doesn’t pan out, we have to be flexible and open to something different – even if that’s simply a different mindset or a different approach. To continue to grow in life, change is necessary. Yes, coping with a failure and accepting change is hard, but like my mama always tells me when I’m complaining about change, “if you don’t change, you die.” (Thanks, Ma!)

Everything isn’t meant to pan out well or come together perfectly, but having the right perspective and attitude as life goes up and down – learning how not to define yourself by life’s highs and lows – can save your sanity, your heart, and your drive. Thank you, Myleik, for teaching me how to fail forward, so I could share the lesson and uplift with others. Remember – “failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.”

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