I have a confession to make...in junior high (that's what middle school was called in the dark ages) and high school, I was a cheerleader. I can't even believe that one, myself. Our very first performance, for the freshman class, was at freshman orientation. We were set to perform in the gym, in front of a kazillion of our new peers. In the routine, myself and one other were set to do a round off back handspring. I had learned this trick over the summer and had successfully "stuck it" numerous times in the practice room. I was nervous, but not paralyzed. I had butterflies as our squad was announced...here we go. Cheer was going fine, alright...here comes the trick...round off, nailed it. Back handspring...nailed my face into the gym floor! My arms had buckled and my nose made first contact. I completed the trick...instead of pushing off with my hands, I pushed off with my hands AND face. Oh the pain...oh the humiliation! I had no time to think and just kept going. No other option. What I came out of there with, was a bruised nose for my freshman ID card, a bruised ego and now a STORY and some learning. Upon reflection, I realized that I had NEVER tried that trick on a hard surface, such as a gym floor, only the padded, spring floor of our practice room. My arms buckled upon impact. What I learned was, it is best to practice or work through something BEFORE actually doing it in a public forum.
Why do I tell this long story? This is my "go to" story, when I talk to my own kids about "failing forward". Everyone makes mistakes, everyone has hiccups, we can't let those define us. We are human and we will all fail, it's how we handle it that defines us
If you know me, have heard me speak, seen my tweets or read any of these blogs, you know that something I am passionate about is encouraging risk and the idea of "failing forward". Whenever I say this phrase, it gets a reaction. (Truth be told, this is of course not MY phrase, but I got it from one of my favorite Author/Researchers: Brene Brown). When I use this phrase, people often ask what it means, OR they let it sit for a minute and then say "I like that". I am now hearing this phrase, all the time. This of course makes me very happy, but I always like to clarify what it actually means.
Fail forward does not just mean you simply "fail" and move on. This is part of it. For me, "failing forward" is a six part process:
1) Recognition: Ok, something happened, something didn't go as planned. You made a mistake, there was a hiccup, a blip. Best not to ignore it, acknowledge it and go to #2.
2) Move forward: Don't get stuck in that moment, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep moving forward. Don't beat yourself up, don't go down the rabbit hole. This is a very important part. We often get stuck on step one and spin in circles...I have found that that is not productive and no good can come from it.
3) Reflect: At some point, when you have time, as close to the "fail" as possible; reflect back on what happened. Why did it happen? Is there any explanation? Was it due to circumstances out of your control? What were the steps leading up to it? Could you have approached this in a different way? Were there steps missed? Again...this is not time for a "beat up session", I think as educators and humans, we already do enough of this. This is a time to think and prepare for learning.
4) Learning: Based on your reflection, what new learning do you have? It is there, sometimes you just have to look for it. I know, in the cheer leading incident, my first instinct was to place blame, first on myself and then anyone or anything else I could think of. "It was the gym floor's fault". That doesn't help. It was my fault for never practicing in the actual venue that I would be performing in. What learning can you take away from the "fail"?
5) Grow: I try to take EVERY circumstance; good, bad, ugly, as an opportunity to grow. I take the reflection and the learning and use it to try and better myself. Let's be life long learners, willing to continuously grow both personally and professionally. If we aren't growing we are dying, and we are too young for that!
6) Go: Do something with your new learning and growth. Share it. Humans thrive on connections, share your "fail forward" stories. I know when I do (and I do it often), people always appreciate. I often get a "me too". or "I'm glad to know that I am not the only one to..." I try to be transparent, my ego was checked a long time ago. I have shared my "fail forwards" with my students, my own children and many adults that I come in contact with. I think this is an important step for us as well as those on the receiving end. It builds that connection: We are ALL the same at our core. And to me...that is BIG.
Now...I am also a big proponent of "Walk the Talk" and REALLY try hard to practice what I preach, but I am just human. I had a recent incident in which I "failed" and got stuck on step one, for a bit...but that "fail forward" story, is for another post. To me, it was a DOUBLE "fail forward" and I want to share it.
But for now...just keep moving forward through reflection and learning. #failforward
Mother, teacher, TOSA, GCE Level 1 & 2, Encourager of others.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.