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One of the skills most frequently overlooked is the skill of failing well. It’s time to change that as our competitive and complex environments increasingly require us to transform our failures into learning and needed change.


So here it is, in no particular order, five actions to turn failure on its head when failure is weighing on your heart.

Get out of your dysfunctional bifurcated thinking

The fact is almost everything we do has elements of failure and success. Take the time to get out of our tendency towards black and white thinking and appreciate what worked as well as what can be learned from what didn’t. Try to think about all the ways you are better because the failure happened: What did you learn? How did the experience help you?

Tell your story to as many people as you can

Communicating our failures and seeking the perspectives of others is one of the best ways to separate ego from activity. Each telling seems to release a bit of the shame and other negative emotions that plague us when we keep our failures to ourselves.

Get someone who loves you to tell your story back to you

How would they describe what happened? How do they perceive your role and the consequences? Other people tend to love us more than we love ourselves in times of failure so their telling of the story will be more generous and kind. Listen to their perspectives and try to see yourself as they see you, with love, acceptance and kindness.

Don’t act

As humans, we’re hardwired to experience strong physiological responses to failure. Our stomach clenches, palms sweat, shoulders pull down, heart rate increases,etc.  These reactions trigger defensive mechanisms in our brain.  The primary purpose of the defense is to expel the discomfort of the reaction at any cost and here is where we see blame, self-criticism, avoidance, and quick fix reactions that generally undermine our learning at best and hurt those around us at worst. Pause. Wait for the amygdale reaction to pass.  THEN choose how you will react to the situation.

Spend July 9th with us at Fail Forward 2014

This is a one-day crash course in failing well, held at the MaRS Collaboration Centre in Toronto. It will be a day of thought-provoking ideas, useful tools and practices, and truly novel experiences to help us redefine our relationship with failure. For individuals and organizations, this means increased performance, achieving ambitions, growing revenue, and the agility to stay relevant and competitive.

Fail Forward 2014 will help us actively build a practice of intelligent failure, so that failures can be catalysts for learning, adaptation, innovation, and so much more. Register here.


Ashley Good is the CEO and Founder of Fail Forward, which supports organizations to learn, innovate and build resilience. On July 9th, 2014 in Toronto she will host Fail Forward 2014, a full day of thought-provoking ideas, useful tools and practices, and truly novel experiences to help us redefine our relationship with failure.

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