Framing Failure

Janine Grey, Managing Director


As the new year and semester begins and we get back into our workflow, it seems as if everyone is feeling the glorified light of resolutions and #NewYearNewMe. Maybe you’re going to be more outgoing or lose a bunch of weight. Perhaps you resolved to give up a vice like smoking. If you have one of those, I sincerely wish you the best of success with whatever you aim to do. But don’t get upset if you fail.

In our society, failure has a negative stigma. Some people become so ashamed of their failures it becomes a dark secret that brings heat to their cheeks whenever a topic remotely similar is brought up. But why?

Failure is a part of life, and a great part of life. It means you put yourself out there and tried something. It means you took a risk, however big or small, and it means you’ve just been handed an opportunity to grow. It also tests your tenacity, your resiliency and your limits. One of my biggest failures of my life was simultaneously one of my greatest successes thus far. Of course, at the time, I couldn’t see the forest for the trees and felt that my life was over and I’d never have another opportunity like that again. But it simply wasn’t true.

Because of this failure, I was unemployed for six months, had to move back in with my parents after being on my own for nearly 8 years and barely had enough money to survive. But because of that failure I also decided to start taking more risks. I asked for jobs I wasn’t remotely qualified for and substantially over-qualified for. I opened my ear to advice from people I had once never considered. I focused on what I wanted long term while simultaneously working on what I needed short term. I reached out and networked with people both in and outside of my comfort zone. I decided to start bartending just so I could get comfortable talking with people I didn’t know. In fact, it was during this period of failure that I applied to USC – and when I was accepted, it became my opportunity.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to fail. I put blood, sweat and tears into everything I do and I’m devastated when I miss the mark. But it’s not about the miss-step. It’s about the redirection.

In PR we talk about framing your message quite often. We try to convey particular feelings to a specific audience for the greatest outcome. Failing, and how you react to it, is no different. You are the target audience. Is the message going to be “I failed” or is it going to be “I have an opportunity”? What will be the outcome?

The point is, everyone fails. The moral is, don’t be afraid or discouraged when you do. Perhaps you didn’t get that internship you had your eye on or you got a lower score than you expected on that test. Don’t focus on the failure, focus on how to improve. Door A didn’t open. Go check door B and C. Sometimes, even better things await.


Leave a Reply

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