Congrats, You Failed: Why Debriefing Your Failure is Super Important
Congratulations – you failed!
You know what this means? In the words of Ms. Frizzle, from the Magic School Bus, you took chances, you made mistakes and inevitably, you got messy.
I know you’re probably cringing right now thinking “yes, I did fail miserably and there is no way that I want to rehash that embarrassment again, how terribly uncomfortable would that be?” To that I say, show me someone who has never failed, and I will show you someone who has never tried something new.
Reshma Saujani, Founder and CEO of Girls Who Code and author of Brave, Not Perfect talks about how as women we have been programmed from a very young age to be perfect, to play it safe and to get straight As. Her work with Girls Who Code is about teaching girls to be brave in learning a new skill (coding) and being ok with not getting it right, right away. She is so passionate about getting girls and women to rethink what failure means that she started the hashtag #FailureFriday. She reveals her own failures every Friday in her Bravery Bulletin email which she shares with her entire distribution list and encourages us all to do the same (what a badass!?).
Want another example of a bad ass woman who turned her failure into mega success?
Jaclyn Johnson, Founder and CEO of Create & Cultivate and author of Work Party talks about how her work failures (yes, plural!) of moving across the country to a job she was promptly let go from and having a brutal partnership breakup propelled her to where she is today, creating and cultivating the career of her dreams and helping others to do the same. She is inspiring AF!
We fail at things every day. All of us.
What we rarely do is take the time to really understand why. The art of debriefing your failure is so important for learning from your mistakes, creating action to improve yourself,building your resiliency and connecting with others. In the words of Reshma, “your failures give you your edge…they make you strong, wiser, more empathetic, more valuable, more real.”
Want to learn how to harness that? Here are 4 questions to get you started.
What was I trying to accomplish?
This one is the easiest question to answer, as not attaining what we set out to accomplish is how we know we failed. However, getting clear on what exactly you were trying to do is important for moving forward and either beginning again or moving on to something else.
For example, when I failed at creating a mentorship program for my sorority, I was able to understand that I was trying to create a way for our active members to connect more authentically with our alumnae. I failed at creating this community for them. What this tells me is that it’s important for me to create something where people can learn from and grow with each other – that is what I was trying to accomplish.
What actually happened?
When you fail at something it’s easy to fall into the mindset that nothing you did was good. “Everything was terrible, I am terrible, I will never be good at anything…” While having a pity party for yourself is sometimes needed (hey, you’re only human), it’s not helpful for looking at what you did objectively and picking out the parts that were well done (and could be used in the future).
Going over what really happened will help you to gather the facts (and opinions) about what transpired and realizing how it deviated from the original goal you were trying to accomplish. This is how you move forward and learn from your mistakes.
What can I learn from this or do differently next time?
There is ALWAYS a lesson from anything that you do – even when you fail (especially when you fail).
When my mentorship program failed, it would have been easy for me to look at it and say it failed because of the participants’ lack of involvement. What this would have done is create a blind spot in my own understanding of why the program failed. By understanding what really happened, I realized that I also lost the loving feeling and contributed to the failure of the program.
This realization, although a hard pill to swallow, will help me understand where I will need more support in the future, should I want to try and build a mentorship program again. It will help me understand where my own limitations are so I can work on strengthening them or work with a partner who has those complimentary skills.
Now after you’ve finished debriefing your failure, it’s important to get practical about your next steps. Are there new skills you need to acquire? Are there roadblocks you need to tend to? Are you ready to try again or move onto something else? Are you ready to share what you learned with others?
What this exercise is meant to teach you is that failure isn’t the end of the world. In the words of Reshma, wear your failures like your own “personal bravery badges of honour”. Wear them with pride, show them to the world and then get back out there and try again.
You brave little badass, you!