Have you ever failed at something? Maybe a test, or business, or perhaps a relationship? We have all experienced failure at some point in our lives. How did you feel about failing? I am sure you experienced many different emotions. If you’re like me, you may have felt sad, hurt, or even awful.

As a result, failure is the one word no one wants to hear or see. That’s right; we do not care for the word failure or any version of the word. For example, as a student, you never wanted to receive the dreaded “F” on an assignment.

Why? Because we have been conditioned to believe that failure is always negative. In fact, every definition of the word is negative. Merriam Webster offers multiple meanings, including:

  1. lack of success
  2. a failing in business
  3. a falling short

However, failure does not mean the end, nor is it permanent. William Whewell said, “Every failure is a step to success.”

While failure is never pleasant, it is beneficial to our growth. As humans, our failures help us learn what works and what doesn’t work. Think about how you learned to ride a bike, read, or walk.

As a coach, I work with individuals who allow fear of failure to keep them from pursuing their dreams. Recently, I spoke with an individual who was struggling. They were not happy in their current job but were afraid to step out of their comfort zone.

During our conversation, we discussed the different reasons why the individual could not make a change. As we worked through the various reasons, the only issue left was fear of failing. At the end of our conversation, the individual agreed to put together a transition plan.

I reminded the individual that it would not be easy and take a lot of work, but the key is to fail forward. One of my favorite quotes is from Thomas Edison, who said, “I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

As a leader, I have experienced failure. However, I have embraced Edison’s philosophy. I take advantage of every opportunity to achieve to move our organization forward. Over the years, I have learned failure and success go hand in hand.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

-Winston Churchill

Leaders fail forward to achieve success. Remember to use your failures as stepping stones to success.

Are you failing forward to achieve success?



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Dr. Kim Moore

About the author

I'm Kim, your Educational Leadership Guide. I equip educational leaders with research-based and experientially learned educational leadership principles and best practices to promote student success.