The F Word: Why You Should Embrace It

"I am staring it the face. The F Word. It is looking at me, daring me, even to respond to it. It wants to know what I am going to do. Will I cower just like in times past? I can see a smirk curl the sides of its mouth as it figures it has already won. Like a bully on the playground, it thinks it has me beat. "Any minute now", it thinks, "she is going to run away defeated."

It is a scene from those Western movies my grandmother loved to watch. 

I am facing my opponent, at high noon, in the dusty streets with sun blaring down on us both. We expect each other to reach for our guns and draw.Then I do something that completely wipes the smug little grin from its face.

I pick up my opponent and embrace it!"

The "f" word personified here is...

If you are like me, the failing is a real fear. It is like the boogie man in the closet; an ominous presence waiting to eat me and my dreams.

You have two choices when it comes to failure:

Embrace it or Run

What Is Failure?

According to dictionary.com, failure is defined as "an act or instance of failing or proving unsuccessful".

Read that again. An act or instance of proving unsuccessful. "An" is a singular article. 

Failure is an instance. Singular. It is not who you are. It is not a state of mind. It is not a stain that can't ever be removed.

Here is the issue we have with failure. Because it is this enigmatic, ominous presence, we think it is perpetually alive.

If you are thinking, "yeah, but I've had many singular acts of failure in my life." To you I'd respond, "join the club."

We've all failed at something. We've all failed at many things. As communication skills trainer and coach, I can't tell you the number of times I I've failed in my communication skill prowess. We have all found our selves on the losing end of a showdown with failure. It happens.

But like the story, you can do something unexpectedly powerful in the middle of your next showdown with failure. You can embrace failure.

Why Embrace Failure

Failure means you tried!
If you're not failing every now and again, it's a sign you're not doing anything very innovative.
~Woody Allen
Having a failure means that you tried something. Do you know how many people NEVER even try? You should be proud that you tried something new.

The person who finished the race last will always beat the time of the person who never entered.

Failure means you learned something!

When talking about the invention of the light bulb, the guy who invented it said this:
I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.
~Thomas A. Edison
Each failed attempt holds information that fuels our future success. 

Think back to when you were a student in school. When you were learning a new concept. You got it wrong more times than you got it right. With each, stroke of the red pen, you learned why your answer was wrong. Eventually you got fewer and fewer red marks.

In order to learn from your failure, you must stop denying it.
Don't be afraid to fail. Don't waste energy trying to cover up failure. Learn from your failures and go on to the next challenge. It's OK to fail. If you're not failing, you're not growing.
~H. Stanley Judd

We can't learn from something we are ashamed of. In my video speech, How to Move From Pitiful To Powerful, I encourage my audience to embrace mistakes so you can see all the wonderful teachings in them.

The Most Important Reason to Embrace Failure

You reclaim your power.

Once you realize that failure is a part of growth, you can expect it as a welcome aid. It shrinks from the ominous monster out to get us to a handy tool we can use to get the job done. We can pull it out to wield at our discretion, instead of being tossed to and fro by it.

How To Use Failure As A Tool

In an article called What Small Business Can Learn from Google, author Julie Clow highlights 5 lessons small businesses can leverage for their own success. It just so happens that failing is at the heart of a majority of those lessons.

In fact, lesson 2 is "Fail Fast". The nugget behind this lesson is that innovation comes by trying lots of new things. Trying a lot of new things is the fastest way to see what doesn't work and if it doesn't work then you don't have to spend your time and energy on it.

Clow suggests failing fast is good but failing slowly is bad. By failing slowly, she means spending a lot of time and energy in developing something that doesn't work. 

The principal idea behind many lessons in this article is a technique called "reframing". 

Reframing allows us to examine our current frame of thinking, expose the ideas that are holding us back, and then construct a new frame that allows us to move forward. 

For example, failing is usually avoided at all costs.  Reframing allows us to see failing as a positive that is worth pursuing in some cases. 

At the heart of BRAVE Communication LLC is the idea of reframing. In many cases, we need to examine our current beliefs about communication, expose the ideas or myths that produce so-so or negative results, and then build new pathways to better communication.

And so I say, embrace the F word. It might be the best thing you can do for yourself.

What are some successes you found wrapped in a failure? 


  1. Ain't this the truth!? Thank you for sharing your infinite wisdom. :)

  2. Thanks Andrea! So what success have you found disguised in failure?

  3. I've been working on embracing failure myself.

    I've been avoiding failure most of my life, and although I've done a pretty decent job of it, I also take that to mean that I've been in a comfortable place. I really can't say that I've tried particularly hard to do big things if I don't fail every now and then.

    Great thoughts, Julia.

  4. Thanks Ryan! Most of us avoid failure at all costs. It is ingrained in American society to win and succeed all the time so reframing our minds to embrace something we naturally avoid isn't going to be easy...but its worth it.

    Ever have any successes have come from a moment of failure?

  5. Oh I've had a few, haha.

    In my professional life, as an engineer, I'm constantly attacking new problems, and failing at fully solving them. But there is knowledge to be learned from these failures and eventually it's all applied to the final solution.

    When I look at my current website, I can see tons of influence from my first one that didn't really take off. While I wouldn't consider Crazy Enough To Try a success in the traditional sense, I'm happy with what I've learned and applied from trying (and failing) before.

  6. Really liked this post. Reminded me of a quote I stumbled upon recently - 'The man who makes no mistakes does not usually make anything.'

  7. Hi Micah!
    Thanks for commenting! That is a great quote! Trying to change the world will lead us to make mistakes. What lessons have you learned from a mistake?