Bouncing Back from the Bottom: Learning from Failure

What is Failure?

At some point in life, everyone experiences failure. Yes, failure and hitting the bottom is a part of life. While looking up from the bottom, I’ve learned a few lessons. However, failure means different things to different people.  According to definitions include:

  • Lack of success or proving unsuccessful
  • Non-performance of something due, required or expected
  • A person or thing that proves unsuccessful

As an educator, what does failure mean to you? Does it mean not meeting a goal? Or does hitting the bottom mean your students not meeting expectations on the state assessments? For me, failure really took me for a loop when was fired from a job that was very important to me. I was totally blindsided and defeated by the loss. I didn’t see it coming and couldn’t understand how or why it happened. After, all I gave the district and students years of loyalty, hard work, and dedicated service. Was this the reward I received for being a good employee? I was devasted! The opportunity to say goodbye to my students, parents, and staff was lost. I needed closure. Then I hit the bottom. In my eyes, I was a failure.

Holding On to Failure

Despite the devastation, life didn’t stop. I had to snap out of my funk, anger, and disappointment. Then one day, I saw a post on Facebook. It said, “Sometimes holding on is worse than letting go.” Ding, ding and ding! Wow, that post shook me up because I was still fighting hard for my lost job. I realized at that point it was time to reflect, rethink and restart my life. It was time to wipe away the tears and self-doubt. It was time to bounce back from the bottom. The failure I experienced taught me five important things in life. Here’s how failure can help you to bounce back.

Learning from Failure

  1. Failure is a great teacher. Being unsuccessful will give you a chance to explore what lessons you’ve learned from the experience. If student test results didn’t meet your expectations, don’t be defeated. Instead, look at the data and all of the variables. Reflect on what you did well and on what you can improve upon. Think about why you responded to certain situations and how your response affected the outcome. Failure holds important lessons for you to reflect upon and move on to the next phase.
  2. Failure is a part of life. It will happen more than once. Life isn’t fair! What’s important is how your respond to it and what you glean from it. Failure builds character and emotional strength to do better the next time.
  3. Focus on the positive. Don’t focus on the negative because it will only keep you down. Even in failure, positive things took place. Think about all of the positive, learning opportunities going on in your school or classroom. Assess every aspect in order to make changes. Write down the positives and create a strategy for your new plan towards success.
  4. Ask yourself personally and professionally to try new things. If at first, you don’t succeed, try and try again. This is an opportunity to find out what is important to you. Start plotting a new course. Learn a new technique or instructional strategy. Write new curriculum. Collaborate and network with your peers. Change your career goals. It’s a whole new world for you.
  5. Extraordinary, successful people fail and never give up. You are not alone, so pull yourself up from the bottom. Think about these famous and successful people who experienced failure more than once.

Never Give Up

  • Bill Gates is one of the wealthiest men on earth. He was not always successful. Did you know that he failed at his first business? He didn’t give up and went on to found Microsoft Corporation.
  • Oprah Winfrey was once fired from a Baltimore television station. A producer thought her looks didn’t fit the mode for a TV personality. Consequently, Oprah became the most successful talk show host in history. Now she’s still making history by owning her own television network, OWN.
  • Steve Jobs co-founded Apple, Inc., with his friend Steve Wozniak. At one point he was fired from the company that he created. The Board of Directors voted him out. During his time away from Apple, Steve Jobs was the primary investor and CEO of Pixar. Later, he returned to Apple, Inc., as Chairman and CEO. He took the company to all-time highs and profits.
  • J.K. Rowlings the author of the Harry Potter series had a series of failures in life. She was jobless, divorced and penniless before writing the first book. Various publishers turned down her draft chapters. Then, one small publishing house took a chance on her book. The rest is history.

Moving On

Sometimes life will throw you into a tailspin. As an educator, you always try to shield your students from failure. However, you neglect to shield yourself. Advice is that failure is not the end of the world. It’s how your handle it that’s important. Do you want to hold onto what causes you pain and uncertainty? Remember holding on is worse than letting go. As with the successful persons above, they hit the bottom. Then, they bounced back from the bottom and soared to the top. They learned from the experience. They took the failure as a part of life and moved on. Their focus on the positives improved their ideas. They definitely tried new things and their creations changed people’s lives.

Success takes time. Overnight success is an anomaly. Like swimming, you can’t float on the bottom for too long. Float to the top. Failures come and go throughout life. Remember it is the opportunity to reflect, rethink and restart. Seize the moment to be exceptional and successful.


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