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Sharing a story of failure should not be about reliving moment of shame or embarrassment. Instead, it can be an opportunity to impart the lessons learned and cultivate empathy. Everyone, regardless of their status or achievements, has faced setbacks. Stories about them are not just tales of missteps but of resilience, determination, and growth as well.

Disappointments, while often hard to swallow, are stepping stones to success; they are an inevitable outcome of trying, of daring to dream and of following that dream. Quite often the scale of one’s success is directly proportional to the number of failures they have encountered. It is not as if each failure adds a rung to the ladder of success, but… sometimes it does.

Introspection, born from acknowledging and analysing failures, often paves the way for personal growth as well. It equips us with the wisdom and experience to handle similar challenges more adeptly in the future.

Some of us grapple with an intriguing paradox. We have a strong ability to recall our successes, while memories of our failures fade from memory (the degree of this phenomenon depends on our personality and cultural influences and is a natural self-preservation mechanism). Understanding the reasons for failure, done with curiosity and forbearance, can help us remember the lessons learned for a longer time. The right approach is crucial to avoid dwelling on failures and drawing hurtful conclusions.

How to approach failures

I believe that some failures, if approached correctly, can make us stronger and provide valuable experience. However, I won’t sugarcoat it: some failures will simply cause harm. In these cases, let’s help others avoid them.

And here’s where the magic begins: when we share our failures, something happens that transforms them even more. Relationships deepen, collaboration becomes more effective, and a sense of team spirit forms at double speed. Sharing a story about failure lays the foundation for a supportive culture and helps prevent others from making similar mistakes in the future. Moreover, learning from someone else’s failures can serve as an inspiration. It can motivate us to take calculated risks, step out of our comfort zone, and tackle challenges with a renewed vigor (if only because we do not feel alone in our struggles).

Leaders, by sharing stories about their setbacks, not only show that they are like anybody else (what is better than being perceived as a machine ;)), but they help model healthy coping strategies. This transparency can inspire perseverance and shape the belief that sometimes challenges are opportunities for growth (oh, I know how hard it is to instil such a conviction).

However, it’s crucial to strike a balance. While acknowledging failures is vital, glorifying them is not the goal. The popular mantra of “fail fast” has its merits, but as Leticia Gasca suggests, it is essential to “fail mindfully”. Being mindful of failures means understanding their impact, recognizing the lessons they offer, and feeling a responsibility to share these insights with others.

As a leader, I cannot be careless and naive. There are failures that need to be “digested” alone or shared within a close circle. Moreover, there may be a better or worse time to share stories of mistakes – we need to choose wisely. I do not punish anyone for admitting a mistake (in fact, I thank them for it), but I find it hard to understand when someone does not want to talk about their failures, stubbornly does not recognize them, and does not learn from them.

At the end, I would like to recall the words of Samuel Beckett, “Fail again. Fail better”. I wish you “better failures” that are the proof of your progress and growth and to share the findings you got.

In the future, I want to write about sharing stories of failures, defining the boundaries of what should not be revealed, and how to overcome the fear associated with discussing mistakes. Therefore, consider subscribing to my newsletter!