How to Fail Better

Spice! Leadership was born out of failure.

It came out of Alex’s 5-year stint as a lawyer, a career that clashed with her personality and left her feeling burned-out and unsure of herself.

It came out of Amanda’s constant struggle to inspire her students - especially the girls - to raise their voices and live up to their full potential.

It came out of a post-election concession speech that encouraged little girls to “never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.”

It came from a professor who forgot his manners and mocked a student during her first big presentation – showing her that she could bounce back from this and from so many other things.

Spice! Leadership doesn’t exist despite these failures. It exists because of them. That’s why we build failure into every Spice! program. Learning how to fail the right way - with curiosity, optimism and creativity – is how we change our lives. It’s how we change the world.

Embracing failure is part of having a growth mindset. If you fail, it’s because you’re trying something new or challenging (or both). The more you challenge yourself, the more you’re going to fail and the more you're going to succeed. 

The experience of failure can make teens less anxious and more resilient, give them better coping skills and help them do better in school. Why not practice failing when the stakes are low, so that we already have those strengths and skills when it really counts?

In his book Failed It! (which is on our must-read list), Erik Kessels describes failures as “early brushes with success”. We agree. If you keep your eyes and your mind open, screw-ups can lead to unexpected breakthroughs.

Here’s how to turn failure into a superpower:

1) Fail early, fail often, fail on purpose.

When you’re trying something new and a little scary, ask yourself: what’s the worst thing that could happen? Then make that thing happen (within reason)!

Whether it’s trying a new skill, speaking in front of a crowd or starting a new project, getting the worst out of the way makes everything else less scary. You learn that failure isn’t the end of the world. Then you can stop worrying about it and focus on learning. And you’ve already learned what not to do!

Each time you fall down, practice picking yourself up and moving on.

2) Turn every failure into a lesson. 

Once you’ve picked yourself up and brushed yourself off, don’t make the same mistake again. Look around, see what tripped you, and avoid it next time. 

Multi-billionnaire Richard Branson is a prime example of this. He’s run so many failed businesses that it’s hard to keep track of them all.  The secret to his success? He makes a point of learning from every misfire and turning his losses into ever-greater wins

So when something doesn’t work, ask yourself why - and look for what you can do differently next time.

3) Look for opportunities in your failures.

Here’s where the real magic happens (but the analogy gets a little weaker).

When you fall, don’t just get up right away. Instead, take a look around and see what the view is like from there. You might see something you didn’t notice before. 

Case in point: bubble wrap was first designed in the 1950s to be used as wallpaper. Not surprisingly, it was a flop - but when the inventors realized that their product could be used as a packing material, business really took off. 

Let go of your expectations. If something doesn’t work the way you’ve intended, what other use could you make of it? Kids love the Brainstorming Game - thinking up wild and wonderful uses for common household objects. Maybe we could all benefit from building that mental muscle.