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How to “F” it Up Gracefully and Fail Forward

We’ve all “F’d”up and experienced that overwhelming feeling of humiliation. You know, the feeling that makes you want to retreat into a corner and curl up in the fetal position. I was reminded of that when I was watching the Wisconsin men’s basketball team play Minnesota the other night and I think we can all take a lesson from Khalil Iverson on failing forward.

Minnesota had the ball. Iverson, a non-starter for Wisconsin, came off the bench and stole the ball from Minnesota’s point guard. Iverson all alone on Wisconsin’s end of the court, goes for a wide-open, windmill dunk and… misses - a colossal fail in front of thousands of people. Moments later we see Iverson on the bench. After a few minutes, he’s back in the game, ready for an opportunity to redeem himself, but his next shot is an air ball. Humiliating? Probably. Debilitating? We’ll see. Next thing you know Ethan Happ passes the ball to Iverson. Iverson drives to the basket and nails a double clutch dunk! The crowd goes wild and I am in awe of Iverson’s courage. Khalil Iverson is absolutely fearless! While others might have hidden their tales between their legs and gone in for the easy bunny, Iverson decided not to let past failures hold him back and chose to live big despite his recent failures.

Maybe not as publically as Khalil Iverson, but we’ve all screwed up and experienced failure. When it happens, here are:

5 Steps to “F” it Up Gracefully and Fail Forward

Step 1: Own it After the missed dunk, Khalil humbly took his spot on the bench and regrouped. He owned it. And that’s all we can do. Acknowledge the fail, own our part of it and accept the consequences. Step 2: Take a learning inventory There’s a sign in my office that says, “There are no mistakes, only lessons.” We learn more from our mistakes than our successes if we take the time to reflect on the lesson and what we can do differently moving forward. Here are three key questions to ask ourselves when we’ve screwed up. What was your intention and does it support the vision you have for yourself and others? What could you have done differently? What did you learn about yourself and others through this experience?

Step 3: Offer a repair bid and follow through This is fancy language for apologize and create a plan to make things better. It doesn’t behoove anyone to get defensive or sulk. In fact, it makes things worse. Instead, try the following formula. Express your sincere regret. Acknowledge how your behavior affected yourself and others. Offer what you will do to repair the situation and follow through on that promise.

Step 4: Put it in perspective and forgive yourself We all make mistakes. And despite of our greatest flaws, we are still worthy of love and respect. I hope that while Khalil was sitting on the bench thinking about missing that dunk that he forgave himself. I know I did. Let’s put it in perspective. Wisconsin was up by 19 points and shooting at a high percentage. He was wide-open and 2 points was a low risk for the team at that point. One could argue, like I did with my husband, that it was a “seize the day” kind of moment. If he had made it, it would have ignited the crowd and fueled Wisconsin’s momentum. Was the reward worth the risk? I think so. The fact that he went for it and it didn’t work they way he hoped was not a big deal.

Step 5: Live Big Don’t let the shame and memory of your past failures prevent you from living big and taking future risks. We were not meant to be perfect. We were meant to become the best version of ourselves and often that comes as a result of struggling with adversity. Khalil Iverson is a great example of how to live big. Despite his failed windmill dunk and the follow-up air ball, he finished fearlessly with an aggressive, double clutch dunk. The next time you “f” it up, remember to use these 5 steps to fail forward. Because in the words of Epictetus, It’s not what happens to us that defines us, it’s how we respond. Best wishes for failing forward! ~Laura

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