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Embracing Self-Care While “Failing Forward”

Updated 11/5/23 at 8:35pm PST

Failing Out Loud…Really Loud

I am still reexamining my understanding and relationship with failure (and what a tumultuous relationship it has been). Today, I am focused on looking at what it means to rebound or “Fail Forward” after as a first generation businesswoman: 

As an entrepreneur, I have heard my peers extol the importance of failure as they pivot or scale up their businesses. I had the opportunity to hear about the failure – success relationship yet again during a webinar sponsored by the Good Soil Movement, a brain child of Chairman, Bishop T.D. Jakes and Pastor Michael Phillips. During the session entitled “A Seat at the Table,” Chairman Jakes and a panel of experts provided insights about what is necessary for business owners to structure and position their companies for growth and long-term success.

Each of the speakers provided information that was pertinent to navigate these post-not post-COVID-19 business realities. However, the person that had my full attention (sorry, Bishop) was Executive Chef Liz Rogers. Rogers is the Founder, President, and Executive Chef of Creamalicious Ice Cream. She spoke about her experiences trying to find the best stores for her product. But let me tell you, when she started talking about the ways in which she failed and said (what felt like directly to me), “You can’t be afraid to fail,” I sat back in my chair like:

Just when I thought we moved on from the topic of failure, Chairman Jakes stated that “our ideas are fertilized by failure” and spoke a phrase I heard him say once in a sermon: If you are destined to do anything that is going to make disruptive change, you will have to learn how to “fail forward.”

What does that even MEAN, Chairman, Bishop Sir!

I decided that once the webinar was over, I would dig deep into this idea of Failing Forward and how (if at all) we can operationalize it while caring for ourselves. Caring for ourselves is critical in these moments because failing out loud/really loud can be emotionally and spiritually exhausting.

What is “Failing Forward?

“Failing Forward” is a concept that refers to the idea of experiencing failure or setbacks in a way that ultimately leads to personal or professional growth and success. Instead of viewing failure as a negative outcome, failing forward means using failure as a stepping stone to learn from one’s mistakes, develop new skills, and move forward in a more informed and resilient way. It involves turning adversity into an opportunity for self-improvement and progress, ultimately leading to a higher level of achievement or fulfillment.

Additionally on the platform “The Knowledge,” David Elikwu’s article How to Fail Forward: Why You Should Fail Frequently describes the importance of Failing Forward in this way:

Failing forward refers to the acceptance of failure as a stepping stone to future success. To fail forward means that you have chosen to respect each failure [emphasis added by author] for the lessons it teaches you, and to apply those lessons to future efforts, even if those efforts may also fail. Each failure brings you closer to ultimate success when you’re failing forward.

To be clear, accepting the concept of failing forward does not imply that you want to fail. It doesn’t even imply that you enjoy the opportunity to fail.

It does imply that you recognize that failure is an inevitable part of the road to success and that you will not let your fear of failing prevent you from taking appropriate risks.

Similarly, it implies that you will not let the pain and humiliation of failure be the end of your path to success.

— David Elikwu

Ways to Fail Forward

While researching the meaning of Failing Forward as it relates to the path of success, I came across a number of resources that spoke to various strategies for Failing Forward. I selected three for the sake of space and time. The first resource is Entrepreneur.com’s list of 6 Proven Strategies to Rebound From Failure, while the second list comes from Indeed’s February 2023 article 8 Steps To Overcome Failure (With Resilience-Building Tips)

The third and the most priceless gifts of advice came from Melissa Mahtani’s interview with Caroline A. Wanga at the Global Africa Business Initiative. Wanga is CEO of Essence and Chief Growth Officer of Essence Ventures. During her interview, she gave 3 pieces of advice related to authenticity and success (timestamp 7:14-10:13), with the third being focused on changing our relationship with failure (timestamp 8:43-9:50). 

Caroline Wanga, CEO of Essence and Chief Growth Officer of Essence Ventures and Host, Melissa Mahtani.

Here is the recap of her advice:

  1. Live in indignant pursuit of your purpose. If you don’t find it, the world goes without because no one else can do it except you. 
  2. Never change your “who,” change the “where.” Don’t stop until you find the “where” where your “who” is best. 
  3. Build a threshold of failure in your life so that you don’t miss the opportunities that come right after failure. That way you will become a Failure Recoverist and that’s the competitive advantage that helps you win.  🔥🔥🔥

If you have an opportunity to watch the full video, pleasssse do so!

I am also contributing a list of ways we can rebound from failure. Feel free to click on the image below to download my list of 7 Ways to Fail Forward.

Click on the image above to download your copy
Reflecting on Failing Forward: 7 Questions

As I mentioned previously, coping with failure can be emotionally and mentally challenging. However, practicing self-care can help us navigate the turbulent waters of disappointment and turn it into an opportunity for transformation. That said, in addition to the lists of ways to fail forward, I would like to provide 7 reflection questions to help us embrace self-care while we “Fail Forward.”

7 QUESTIONS: Embracing Self-Care While “Failing Forward.”
  1. How do I typically react to failure? Do I tend to be overly judgmental? If so, what do I need to unlearn/relearn/learn in order to take full advantage of the lessons, while keeping my personhood intact?
  2.  What are my steps for practicing self-compassion and kindness towards myself when Failing Forward?
  3.  What aspects of my daily routine can I adjust to better support my physical, emotional and spiritual well-being as I Fail Forward?
  4.  In what ways can I incorporate mindfulness and stress reduction techniques into my life to help manage the emotional impact of failure?
  5.  Have I reached out to those in my support network (who have emotional bandwidth and availability) and shared my experiences/feelings regarding my recent failures? 
  6.  Have I taken the time to dissect my recent failure(s) and identify what (if anything) worked (i.e. were there any small successes within the failure)?
  7.  What is my process for setting realistic, achievable goals and trying out the skills gained from failing?

Conclusion: Self-Care as a Path to Resilience

Whether personal, professional or both, failure is not the end of the road; it’s a detour on your journey towards success in your own image. By practicing self-care, you can build resilience, learn from your experiences, and emerge stronger and more determined. Remember that self-care is not a sign of weakness but a powerful tool for personal and professional growth. Embrace it, and you’ll find that even in the face of failure, you have the strength to rise again and continue working towards Love, Justice and Liberation!

And as a reminder…#ceasefirenow #loveforallhumanity #peaceforusall

In Solidarity.

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