Broke Pocket Diaries: The opportunity to fail successfully

The opportunity to fail successfully

Failures, repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement. One fails forward toward success.
— C.S. Lewis

Sounds like an oxymoron, right?

As a Black girl, my parents always told me that I had to work twice as hard to get half as far as my white friends. On an episode of Scandal, I heard Olivia Pope’s father demand that statement from her in the middle of…well…a scandal.

I was thinking about this saying this past week and how it does us a disservice. Why? Thanks to anti-Black racism, systemic and institutional racism, sexism and a host of other things, I can work my butt off and still not get the grace my white counterparts get to fail and learn from those missteps.

In my own experience, I found myself not wanting to break out of my comfort zone because I didn’t want to fail. I didn’t want to be the Black person who screwed it up for generations of other Black people to come.

Why? Because we are often seen as representatives of our entire race, not individuals.

Failing successfully

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”
― Maya Angelou

With all that in mind, Black people aren’t given the opportunity to fail in a safe environment, dust ourselves off, learn from those mistakes and aim to do better the next time around.

It’s important to be given the chance to try and not be afraid to fail because you’re going to be penalized. Honestly, in my corporate career, I didn’t see a lot of opportunity to try something and learn from your mistakes. The problem was, if you can’t try something, how do you grow? How do you stretch your creativity?

Some of the most successful business leaders went through failure before finding success. For example, Bill Gates (Microsoft), Evan Williams (Twitter), Fred Smith (FedEx) and Mark Cuban (Yahoo). Now, these are all white men—a very privileged class who are allowed to fail, learn and bounce back to try again.

When I talk to a lot of my Black friends, they aim for perfection in their careers and if they don’t think that they’re going to do something perfectly they become paralyzed. And what does that lead to? The comfort zone.

While your comfort zone isn’t an inherently bad place, it can be the death of creativity and opportunity. How can you grow and become your best self if you can’t take chances and fail without it feeling like it’s a life sentence?

If I fail, then I’ll never get another opportunity like this one.

If I fail, then my entire life will blow up.

If I fail, they will NEVER HIRE ANOTHER BLACK PERSON. (I’m not even joking about this one. Sometimes it feels like you have to be a “credit to your race” and failing will destroy that.)

Utilizing grace

There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”
― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

As my sister-in-law said, “we have to create spaces for ourselves and utilize grace.”

It is hard not be hard on ourselves when we don’t do as well as we want to. We beat ourselves up. We can’t sleep. We want to quit and go back to the comfort of our comfort zone and do what we’ve always done—even if that means that we don’t create the life that we want for ourselves.

That’s me. Like Erykah Badu said, “Now, keep in mind that I’m an artist and I’m sensitive about my sh*t.”

I was at a workshop yesterday put on by my girl at Bang Resume Works (check her out on Instagram @bangresumeworksca). We talked about goals, stepping out of our comfort zones and giving ourselves grace if don’t succeed at first or if we, *gasp* fail.

While it can be uncomfortable to do something different when it’s all said and done the question is: “but did you die?”

Nope. I’m still here.

And I’ll try again tomorrow.




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