What To Do When You Fail Miserably

Have you ever failed miserably at something?

I have. Let me share with you one of my all-time greatest failures!

In 2018, I became the Director of Development at Light of Life. I was 33 years old. It was my first big leadership opportunity. The organization took a risk on me, and for that, I am grateful.

Not too long after I had become Director, I was asked to present at a Board Meeting. That was something I had never done before. I, of course, wanted to do a great job and leave a great first impression on them.

I met with one of our vendors and asked if they could produce a report for me to share with the Board that will give all the data on our fundraising efforts to paint a picture of where we stood.

They produced it, and the report looked great. I knew it would impress the Board.

As I stood up to report to the Board, I passed out the report (which was 15+ pages) and told them to look through it.

My work is complete, I thought to myself.

Then, each of the Board members started asking me questions.

As they asked me questions, I realized I had a huge problem.

The problem? I did not understand the report enough to be able to answer any of their questions.

My heart sank into my stomach. All I could tell them was that I didn’t know the answer to their questions but that I would find out.

My time to report to the Board was over. I walked out of the board meeting, knowing that I had just failed miserably. I’m sure I left the entire Board questioning the organization’s decision to allow me to lead.

I questioned if I had what it takes to be a leader.

Have you been there?

In such moments, we must make one of the most important decisions that we’ll make in our lives: The decision on how we’ll handle our failures.

The question in life isn’t, “Will I fail?” Of course, you will.

The question is, “What will you do when you do fail?”

What to do when You Fail:

You have two options when you fail:

  1. Bury your head in the sand, ignore it, and hope it goes away, or give up. (These are not good options).
  2. Do something about it. (This should be your only option).

So, what should you do?

1.) Admit It & Apologize

When you fail, have the courage to admit it and to ask for forgiveness.

The day after my board meeting, I called every single board member and apologized to them and told them that I wouldn’t let that happen again.

2.) Get Better: Learn the Lessons You Need to Learn

I realized that I had never been a Director before and I had never presented to a board before. There was a lot I needed to learn.

I asked one of the Board Members to mentor me on leading at this level and communicating with the Board.

We spent several breakfasts together. He gave me advice and a template for how to report to the Board. I learned so much from him. I am so grateful he took the time to invest in me.

3.) Don’t Let it Happen Again

It’s been five years since my first Board meeting, and I have never repeated my failure. I learned the lessons that I needed to learn. I built trust with the Board.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.” – Abraham Lincoln

“My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.” – Abraham Lincoln

Never be content with failure!

4.) Do Not Throw Away Your Shot!

When you fail, it is humiliating, and it can cause a lot of shame and doubt in your mind. You’ll be tempted to throw in the towel and quit. Don’t!

For an entire year after that Board meeting, I listened to “My Shot” from the Hamilton soundtrack every day before I went to work.

The main line in the song is, “I am not throwing away my shot!”

That was my focus for the entire year. I was not going to allow one failure to cause me to throw away my shot at leading and growing into the person I have become today.

If you’ve failed:

  • Admit it.
  • Ask for forgiveness.
  • Learn what you have to learn.
  • Get better and grow.
  • Don’t let it happen again.
  • Never give up!

What have you learned about dealing with failure? Comment below!

Remember: Don’t quit. Keep leading. The world desperately needs YOUR leadership!


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