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Failing Forward

Updated: May 12, 2021

I was born in the early ’60s and raised in a highly religious and very disciplined home. Failure was never an option. Frankly, it was an embarrassment to the individual and brought shame to the family. Fast forward to about 2008. During this time, John Maxwell wrote, Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes Into Stepping Stones for Success.

I received the book as a gift and didn't read it until years later. Why? Because “failure” was unacceptable. Since I wasn’t a failure, it didn’t apply to me. I was hardcore, a veteran, growing up in a military family. I ran my classroom tough. I took a series of failures, like divorce, bankruptcy, and the death of a close friend, to humble me enough to realize I needed to change for change.

“The last time you failed, did you stop trying because you failed, or did you fail because you stopped trying?” – John C. Maxwell, Failing Forward

The quote above is the was my pie in the face. I realized I had an oppressive fear of failure ingrained through 40-50 years of well-intended teaching. Many of my losses or defeats were due to my choice of consenting. Acquiesce is the self-pitying, silent killer of dreams and success.

Although the author gives seven principles for failing forward, I have three take-away lessons or strategies to failing forward.

First, get up again. After falling or failing, take responsibility for your future and try again. Even if failing wasn’t your fault, it’s too easy to sulk and wallow in defeatism. As long as you're breathing, you can always begin again.

Second, learn from the mistake of the moment. If we are to find value in falling, we have to discover the cause or root of our stumbling. If it is in our control, correct it. If not, change your approach.

Third, move forward in a better direction. Although, there are times we must stagger as we develop balance and strength. We must build wisdom to know when it’s time to progress forward.

I think it’s time for me to revisit Failing Forward.

Maxwell, J. C. (2000). Failing forward: How to make the most of your mistakes. Thomas


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