The Highlight Of The Year Was My Failure

We’re coming to the end of our academic year.
Next week is Finals Week.

This morning, during our Student Development Team Meeting, our Vice President encouraged us to go around and share one highlight of the year.

As we went around the circle, I started thinking of all of the events, activities, and projects that went well. Yet when it came time for me to share, I didn’t talk about any of those things.

I talked about my greatest failure that occurred this year.

Reflecting back on that moment, I want to share some of my observations.

1. I am fortunate to work in a place that encourages me to try and helps me to learn when my attempts don’t work as expected. Some work environments don’t want people to fail, don’t want people to talk about failure, and punish people when failure occurs. I’m not talking about moral failure or failure with extreme consequences. I’m talking about the kind of failure that naturally occurs as a result of healthy risk and innovation.

2. The ability to share a failure as a highlight only comes when one begins to have the following perspective: I’m not afraid of it. I don’t want to repeat it. I do want to learn from it. I am better from the experience. I’m not afraid of failing in the future.

3. When I shared about my failure in terms that identified it as a highlight, it freed others to embrace their own failures as learning experiences.  The perspective is contagious…and freeing.

4. I can sense an increased energy to try again, to find a better way, to take what I’ve learned and not simply know it, but implement it and share it. Some people call this process striving for excellence.

5. At the end, people didn’t look at me or even think of me – as a failure. Isn’t this typically our greatest fear when it comes to failing?

If you’re a student leader, some of your best preparation will come in the moments when plans don’t pan out, hopes don’t happen, and your best guess was the wrong one. You’ll come to a similar moment at some point in your future and you’ll be ready…to do better.

I’m not encouraging you to go around looking to fail on purpose. It will happen if you’re truly growing and improving. And when it happens, remember the wise words of Mahatma Ghandi, “My imperfections and failures are as much a blessing from God as my successes and my talents and I lay them both at his feet.”

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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • http://leadership.cua.edu Ryan

    Wish the experience you had happened more often. Not only taking responsibility for failures – but acknowledging them publicly and having the opportunity to share how you see yourself learning and growing from the experience is a foreign experience for a lot of people. Must be a great place to work.