Stink, Stank, Stunk…The Art of Failing

Her: How did it go today?
Me: The 3 words that best describe it are as follows: Stink, Stank, Stunk

I hate to fail.
Ironically I preach learning to fail all the damn time.

Yesterday I blew it. And it hurt. It hurt because it was in a room filled with people I respect and some strangers. It hurt because I stunk at something that I (and others) consider to be something I’m pretty good at and love to do. It hurt because I let myself get physically and emotionally run down and didn’t have much reserve of personal goodwill to draw from. It hurt.

And it was necessary.

Three relatively small things threw me off my game. Three things that should not have been significant. Three things that I allowed to work me over.

  1. I allowed myself to worry about being a novice at my work, instead of just enjoying chasing my curiosity and a new challenge
  2. I backed away from the expectations of others, instead of just remembering that every single one of us is human and that these people want the best for me
  3. I let a minor change throw me off my script. I was too rigid. Instead I needed to do what I teach my teams to do…take a deep breath and then dive in with joy and expectation of good things

When I fail and can quickly laugh, the lessons hurt less. When I fail and take myself too damn seriously, I get stuck.


So…if I were one of my employees, team members, or mentees, what would I say to help myself move forward?

Hey Leah,
I know you are feeling down because you don’t feel good about your performance today. Feeling down is okay. Feelings are allowed. You are human.
Not only are you human. You are a lovely, unique, important human. We need you to feel the feelings, ask yourself hard questions, lick your wounds if necessary, and then get back in the game. Here’s what I suggest:

  1. Come up with 2 or 3 things that would have changed the outcome for you. It can be based on your actions or outside forces, but it MUST be how you could have handled it differently if nothing was magically different. You can’t script outcomes. You can’t control what goes wrong. You can learn to live in the moment…it’s a better way to live anyway. 🙂
  2. Ask one or two people that you trust and respect for their feedback. Appreciate their honesty. Really appreciate their kindness. No matter what they say… listen, take it in, and thank them.
  3. Do whatever it is that helps you reset…have a drink, go for a run, meditate, call your sister, whatever…do one, do it all. But do it. Don’t skip this step
  4. Purposely put it in the rear view mirror. Glance at it over your shoulder as you move on down the road. Give it just enough mileage so that soon you can only see the blip in the journey. Then enjoy the new scenery out of your windshield.

And listen, if someone brings your failure up, answer honestly but don’t dwell on it.
Let It Go!
If you need someone to remind you that we need you here, just ask me.

You don’t stink.


I will continue to tell my teams to take risks. I will continue to tell them to learn from failure. I will continue to fail myself. I will continue to be honest and transparent…because there is no way to grow that is faster and more direct than to do it through falling down, making mistakes, and blowing it.

So stink, stank, stunk…then take a long bath, cry if you must, and LEARN. You were designed to grow from the terrible moments. You were born to do hard things…with great joy.


1 thought on “Stink, Stank, Stunk…The Art of Failing

  1. Wonderful truths you’ve shared here. I’m copying them now to save for the next time I fall or fail…which is likely not that far off! Thank you for sharing so honestly with us all! Big Hugs to you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.