Inspired Failure

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I have failed…several times.

There are many things that I have attempted in life and many have resulted in failure.

I tried out year after year for the basketball and volleyball teams…I never made it once.

I was a budding pianist who barely passed her music exams (and by barely I’m referring to the fact that I probably would have failed but the examiners felt sorry for me and gave me an extra point or two to pass).

I have made many meals that have ended up in the compost.

I failed my G test (“exit” driving test for those not in Canada) before I successfully passed it the second time.

I applied for numerous jobs (and by numerous, I mean A LOT)…that I never got.

I liked many boys…who didn’t like me.

I was in several relationships… that never worked out.

I was part of many projects and initiatives…that never took off.

I have tried pretending to be someone I’m not…that never worked out. In this case, I failed at being someone else.

The reality is that without these failures among many others, I wouldn’t be where I am nor the person who I am today. Failure has taught me to be resilient. It has taught me to stay committed and determined to the causes close to my heart. It has challenged me to use these moments in time as stepping stones for success. Most importantly, failure has given me the permission to learn more about myself and thus be better able to connect with others.

This past week, I had the privilege of facilitating a workshop entitled “SuperHeroes Without Borders” for the amazing Rock Stars of Engineers Without Borders (EWB). Following the workshop, I was handed two items: A book entitled “Good Luck & Don’t Have Sex: The humble beginnings of Engineers Without Borders” and something even more powerful, a copy of their 2011 Failure Report. That’s right folks, EWB publishes an annual report documenting moments of failure (and learning lessons) from the field right into the head offices. This report is GOLD. EWB understands that failure takes place (sometimes more times than not) and it is in sharing these anecdotes that we are able to share in the experience, learning from it and hopefully growing and evolving from it. As individuals and an organization, they take the fear out of failure by stepping up with courage to share their failure with others. And that my friend…takes guts. It takes balls. It takes true strength-the kind of strength that all of us have within, if we only tapped into it more often.

It is with this gift that I decided to consider and share some of my past failures. It is with this post that I invite you to consider writing/sharing your own failure report and the learning lessons that have come from it.

What would it be like if it became a recognized and valued standard that all organizations (profit and non-profit) including governments published an annual failure report?

The reality is, it is our failures (not our successes) that most connect with people. You and I enjoy knowing that people have experienced rough spots in life and have overcome them to be who they are and where they are today.

With that said, why then are we so afraid to fail and to share our failures?

Perhaps if we saw failure as a sign of strength and not weakness, we would consider embracing failure as one of life’s greatest pathways of growth and being human.


***to learn more about Engineers Without Borders, please visit

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