For a long time, I didn’t see my failures as anything that can move me forward or point me in a different direction that is better for me. I hated and resented all my failures. All the words of wisdom teaching me about importance and necessity of failures did not mean anything to me. I still felt ashamed and angry. Later on, I understood there are no bad results in life, there are just results and It changed my perspective. Some things work for you and some just don’t. You have to get out there and have the courage to pursue ideas and make mistakes. If you try to claim your calling and your success doing what is meaningful to you and what makes you happy, failures are just useful lessons learned. Ups and downs are completely normal as long as you are moving forward.
What also helps me when I fail now – is not to get stuck in the past for too long, I try to learn from my mistakes and move on very fast. This is important for all, especially for girls.
Lastly, I learned to pay more attention to my inner voice, my intuition, my inner wisdom. In the past, I made choices that looked good, were very pragmatic and safe but I knew it was a wrong direction for me. It drained me, added to my list of failures and I just lost time. What makes me happy, centered and energized is when I stay true to myself. It’s not easy sometimes but, it’s worth it long term.
I truly believe that difficult situations, whether failures or just hard lessons, are just that: lessons. Having been a school principal, I have dealt with many differing viewpoints where sometimes a mutual agreement simply cannot be reached or a lot of emotion is involved in the situation (parents understandably get very emotional about their children!). I read once that a warrior uses these situations to grow and learn. After reading that, I thought of a warrior every time which helped me not to get overwhelmed by the situation and actually feel the positive growth instead. I made sure I evaluated each difficult situation to determine if or what I could have done differently, what I learned and how I could adapt that lesson. Also, singing “Let it Go” in my head from Frozen really helped 🙂 In English and French 🙂
Well, I have many failures, but my favorite… are two, actually. One is that I wanted to be an Olympic athlete – I wanted to win – and I tried to be an Olympic luger.I made the National Team for the Olympics and decided against pursuing it, but I’m really glad because that life would have been really narrow. To be excellent at one thing is not where I want my life to be. I want lots of varied adventures with varied people, and a lot of stimulating, varied talk. Although I have great admiration for athletes, I’m so happy for the life I have, which is a kaleidoscope of experiences and people.
The second failure was that I wrote two novels and both of them were rejected, after five years of writing, and it was devastating.The writing was actually terrible and this experience made me a better writer, and my next book, “Lost Cat,” was a success and my writing life got back on track. I think I wouldn’t have been able to write that book if I hadn’t written those two long, terrible novels before, so I’m grateful for them.
My favorite failure was losing on the debate team. I lost because I didn’t strongly believe in the position I was taking, but if I had been more confident in what I was able to say, I could have maybe faked it and made it. So, that’s what I learned from mine, is fake it ‘till you make it.
When I was in high school, I auditioned for the lead role in the musical “Anything Goes.” I was a strong singer but I was arrogant and didn’t practice the tap dancing for the audition. I didn’t get the role I wanted. It taught me that if I want to succeed, I have to be prepared and practice. Your past success will only take you so far.
During my more than seven years at Harvard, I was so busy with school and work, I did not have much time to spend with family and friends. I was in my “work zone.” Looking back, I wish I had a better school-life balance. It’s hard to do during professional school training, but it’s something that I could have done better. When I graduated and did my first start-up, it was much the same. This propelled me to really take a long hard look at how to better balance my professional and personal life. We also had our daughter last year, who is very good at forcing me to create that proverbial work-life balance that we all continue to seek.
I’m very brave and try a lot of things, so I’ve had a lot of failures! It’s even hard to talk about them as failures, because they’ve all supported me in some good way. For example, I wrote two books that never got published. When I was really young, I tried to get into a graduate program and wasn’t accepted. I write all the time, and sometimes the articles are accepted, sometimes they’re not. I think failure is a very strange word because it’s all an experiment. I’m experimenting all the time. Some things work, some things don’t. I think all of that shapes me, but what shapes me the most is that I have the courage and the support to keep creating.
I’m fearless emotionally, so I’ll just go out and do things. My belief is that if I really want to live a fully expressed life, some things are going to work, and some things aren’t. When they don’t work out, I don’t see it as a rejection of me. This willingness to try everything has made me very productive.
People always ask me, “How do you do everything that you do?” I think it helps that I’m not that hung up on the result. Of course, I want good results, but I’m much more interested in being fully expressed and contributing to society.
And my biggest failures, especially between the ages of 18 and 33, had to do with being so unskillful in relationships. I was sometimes unkind and irresponsible. Those are the failures I reflect on the most now, and I continue to work on my relationship skills to be the person I am today.
Having the highest test scores or going to the best college are not the keys to true peace and happiness; it’s being able to love and be loved. If I see anything as a true failure on my part, it’s those moments where I slip into being unkind, impatient, or snappy.
Every failure moves you forward and has the power to teach you something. Running for office was one of the greatest honors of my life because of the people I met while out campaigning, and how it deepened my thinking about how I would serve them.
A relationship that ended when I was younger. It was a solid relationship and it was a failure and a very big lesson, but at that moment, it didn’t feel like it. What I learned later is, there’s always a lesson, in your success and in your failures. Around that time, however, I felt very disempowered so the key message I want to send to girls is this – think of life as a series of experiments, as opposed to series of successes and failures. See what you can learn from each experiment to make the next one even better. This notion of prototyping, experimenting, comes straight from my experience and training as a design thinker, and I think it is one of the most significant and life-changing mantras I carry with me today.
I feel like we all fail all the time. We don’t really assign positive energy to failure, you want to forget about it and move on. It’s funny how we label things – if we call something a failure, then it already seems worse than it is. I think that the biggest distinction is that you can fail many times, but it doesn’t mean that you are a failure.
I think my favorite failure is when I’ve made wrong assumptions. I always feel like that’s the moment when I learn the most about others and myself.
A failure is also every time you don’t stand up for somebody. Every time we can do that, I think we all grow and it feels good.
I’ve been writing a children’s book, and I submitted it to the agent. The agent told me that people are interested – they like it, but don’t love it. I immediately fall into the, “it’s not good enough” situation. So, I told my seven-year-old son I want to change the focus of one character to the other. And he said, “I was hoping you would do that, it was kind of boring.” I asked, “Why didn’t you tell me that before?” He answered, “You didn’t ask me.” So I have to learn to ask. I was so excited that I made it hard for somebody to tell me, “This part doesn’t work for me.” And that lesson is an important one. It’s a favorite failure, because I got a lesson out of it. And those are the ones that I like the most.
I believe failing in school and not achieving the grades that I had strived for, has somehow given me a hunger unlike anyone else. Looking back, I had no idea that this would plant such a deep seed in me to want to achieve. I perceive all failures as training for a bigger situation.
If you don’t fail, you never know what you’re really capable of. If you never bump up against failure, then you never tried. What a shame. You have to lose. I had a lot of successes as a teenager, I was smart and driven. I thought I was going to win the World Tournament. I made it to the USA team that went to the World Tournament, which is the Olympics of Kung Fu. I thought I was going to win. I had never, ever lost a fight. I went all the way to Taiwan, and I lost my very first fight. This girl was so much better than me, I was stunned. Of course, it was devastating, I was heartbroken. But I also realized, I need to work with people that are better than me if I’m ever going to improve. It took me a long time to recover from that.
I have a good friend that always says, “Failures are a really good place to push off from.” Then there’s another line that is often pointed to “It’s your opportunity to use your pain as your power.” I wish that more people would have told me that I would fail a lot.
My favorite failure was when I didn’t get a job as a beauty writer for Marie Claire magazine in London. I was very disappointed and hurt, but I was forced to look at what I really wanted to do with my life, and what would make me happy and it wasn’t really that particular job. This led me to graduate school back in New York where I met my husband, and now I have a job and a life that I love.