One of my favorite authors is John Maxwell. I first read his book, Failing Forward, ten years ago, when I experienced a deep personal failure in my work life. Mistakes I’d made at work had a costly effect on my budding career then, so much so that I was embarrassingly fired from that job, my first ever since finishing school.
I had never experienced such a feeling of personal defeat in my life, and being a newbie to the workplace pretty much added burning coals onto an extremely, well, shitty injury. What’s more, my boyfriend and I had made some costly mistakes in our relationship, which ended up in us ending our relationship. So, my work life wasn’t just in shambles; my heart was in shreds. I was depressed for about two months, not leaving the house at all, staying cooped up in my room, only going out to attend Sunday Mass at our parish and a few church events in an attempt to heal my wounds.
I remember seeing Failing Forward on a bookshelf at a friend’s place, and asked to borrow it. I mean, with a title like that and with failures like mine, I needed something to help push me out of myself and forward into some kind of progress. (She ended up giving me the book.)
Well, I did read the book. I read it twice, in fact. And to this day, it sits on our bookshelf at home, and remains a testament to mistakes I’ve made, but learned from. Recently, I picked up this book again, and began to read through some of the passages I had highlighted during my first read-through. This particular one struck me today.
Remember that breakup I mentioned earlier, the one that happened the same time I was fired from my job? Well, I’m happy to tell you that that was a failure that failed forward. I got a new job, one that I became really good at, so much so that I became head teacher for my tutoring team. I’d been teaching for about a year when my ex-boyfriend and I eased back into a friendship; this was about three years after our breakup. Eventually, we started dating again. We had such love and support from both our families, from all our friends, while we were in our “going steady” years. Three years later, we got married, also surrounded by our closest family members and friends. Today, we have a beautiful son, and a great life working from home.
Seeing my family today; seeing how, despite the mistakes I’ve made and the times I totally screwed up, I am reminded that there is always a way forward out of my mistakes, a stepping stone to a better “me.”
I’ve been dealing with recent mistakes and errors I’ve made, and being me, I can mull over things for a while. But what would that do? Nothing. I have to get up after I fall, do what I can to repair the damage, learn and move on.
Maybe you’re feeling like me this week. I get you; I’m there with you. But let’s not let failure get us down. Let’s get through this — whatever your version of “this” is — together. Because it’s not worth it to stay cooped up reliving your mistakes and failures (or in my case, hitting myself on the head repeatedly with an imaginary hammer). God still believes in you and me. People still believe in you and in me. We have to believe we can and will do better, despite failures.
How have you dealt with personal failure, mistakes you’ve made?