Failing seems to carry less stigma than in the past
A number of notable people have even championed failure as a learning experience
CNN asked the LinkedIn community how they coped with failure
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These days, failure is in fashion.
Books with titles like “The Wisdom of Failure” top bestseller lists and there is even a popular annual conference, FailCon, that gathers people together to study past fails.
But in spite of all the noise about how it’s ok – nay, productive – to fail, it can still be a painful and challenging experience.
So, what is the best way to bounce back?
IMF chief Christine Lagarde, in recent interview with CNN, gave a robust suggestion: “Oh, get over it. Get over it and move on.”
In fact, many women at the top of their fields say that setbacks can be a great source of strength.
CNN’s Leading Women team were curious to find out how other women recover when things don’t go their way, so we asked members of the LinkedIn Connect: Professional Women’s Network, powered by Citi for their thoughts.
Below is their collected wit and wisdom on the matter.
Learning was a huge theme, with many variations on the idea that a failure can be a great teacher.
Vickie Brock writes that when things go wrong, she tries to look for the lesson so that she doesn’t make the same mistake again. She doesn’t want “history repeating itself.”
Yvette Scheiber, a business communications expert, leadership adviser and author cautions that failure is “only a good teacher if you choose to be a good student.”
Your failures reveal more than your successes but only if you face them with the desire to better understand yourself, she adds.
Paige Bacon, a freelance artist and art educator writes that sometimes the fear of failure can cause you to do just that.
“I failed at my first attempt at self-employment because I was afraid of risk.”
Bacon has learned from the experience and wrote that now she takes part in the things that mean the most to her and which might lead in the most interesting directions.
A bit of perspective
Gay E Rosen, a real estate broker, takes a philosophical approach to the idea of setbacks.
If we aren’t “facing health and life decisions … aren’t our issues of a ‘champagne’ nature?” she asks.
Rosen’s three sons were all born with learning disabilities and says she always encouraged them to play sports to “strengthen their resolve, endurance and their self-esteem.”
All three have gone on to excel at sport, including one who is a two-time Olympian.
Linda Jochum-Owczarzak, a researcher at Eastern Michigan University says that a doctor’s forthright words helped her when she received a life-threatening diagnosis in 2008.
She was at a low ebb, having already lost her job and been through a divorce and an amputation.
She remembers: “I said to my doctor, ‘How do I deal with this?’ He said, ‘It is what it is, no more, no less.’”
“Those words helped me see my personal responsibility, what was beyond my control define what I valued most and create a plan of action,” she adds.
This too shall pass
Remember, failure doesn’t last forever.
Scriptwriter and mentor, Karen Fega writes: “Failure is just temporary … Success is like a bungee cord, not a long rope. You bounce back.”
Airspace manager Sandra Taylor shared a poignant story of achieving her career dream of being an air traffic controller at just 24, losing her job, and spending the next 16 years “trying to put my life back together.”
She worked as a waitress and sold shoes but never gave up hope that she would work in her chosen field again.
“I FOUGHT to get my current position … and to my knowledge am the only woman to hold that job,” she says.
Her advice is to be resilient, “make good decisions and never give up … “
Writer Aviva Gittle says that her “most profound, if not lucrative, comeback was from the real estate bust.”
She listed the lessons she had learned, including one that she says she is still learning: “Forgive yourself.”
“The mistakes are in the past. The money is gone. Use your precious energy to rebuild, not tear down,” she adds.
Marilyn Foreman, a business coach, says that she tends to beat herself up about her failures.
But then,”I remember that the only place we learned to link failure with our own sense of value was in school when we were measured, graded and judged on whether we did something right or not.”
She finds comfort in the fact that “there is no link between our value and whether we make a mistake or not.”
Fail, fail and fail again.
Because if you approach it with the right attitude, failing could be the best thing that ever happened to you.
“What you think of as a ‘failure’ one year, may well be responsible for a series of actions afterward that leads to an enormous ‘win’ later,” writes Barbara Berger, a creative director.
“Nothing is static; as long as you keep moving and remain motivated there will always be a light at the end of a sometimes very long tunnel,” she adds.
Kim Ramsey, an executive coach agrees.
“I have definitely found that adversity is one of the most significant growth and development opportunities assuming the individual takes time to reflect on what was learned.
“As hard as it is to through these difficult times, reassessing and committing to moving forward will make you stronger and is a common characteristic of high potential leaders,” she writes.
Doctor Patricia L McGuire says: “I have now lived long enough to realize that failure is just part of the game–part, in fact, of the process of success; that the experience of failure is simply to know what will not work, what should not work, or what could not have worked at the time.”
She sums it up as: “Fail Well. Recover. Repeat.”