What does it mean to “fail up” and how can people practice this?

In cooperation with Quora, a platform to exchange and share knowledge, an expert regularly answers interesting questions about new work, career, and diversity. This time Ruth Zuckerman, co-founder of Soul Cycle and Flywheel and author of “Riding High”, talks about failure.

Ruth Zuckerman Author Founder talks about failure
Ruth Zuckerman

When I think of “failing up” I think about how I can take my failures and reframe them into something positive. When experiencing failure, it is important to step back and look at it as an opportunity to learn and progress both personally and professionally. We can actually elevate our game through the mistakes that we have made.

Now don’t get me wrong…failure hurts and can do quite a number on our self-esteem. When confronting it, cut yourself some slack and practice some self-empathy. The harder we are on ourselves the further we knock down our confidence levels, which in turn, can make us risk-averse. After all of the negative feelings have settled, take stock in all of the lessons learned.

How many times have we been involved in failed relationships? I have been through a divorce followed by subsequent failed relationships when I became single again. Knowing that having a relationship was important to me, I had to start recognizing certain patterns that caused me to sabotage any chance of succeeding with the “right” person. It took several failed relationships to finally get to the point where I was ready. Through deep self-exploration with outside help I finally had an understanding of the where’s and the why’s that contributed to this consistent end result. I now approach them much differently. I choose people with different qualities than what I typically gravitated toward. It’s a long road and it took a significant amount of failure and pain to finally be ready to figure out a different way that could lead to a more gratifying relationship.

Professionally, I suffered the unimaginable…having to exit a partnership from a business that was not only my dream to open but was experiencing massive success. I was caught completely off guard and never thought that this traumatic event was even in the realm of possibilities. Business partnerships go through rough spots all the time. Clearly there was a lot of dysfunction in this one to have had it end in this way. I was devastated and in that moment saw no signs of bouncing right back and moving on. It took awhile for me to recover and even be able to assess the damage and reframe it into a positive. But I did. And it took the same exploration that I had to do regarding my personal relationships. It was really no different. After that experience I eventually landed on my feet with a great business partnership that created Flywheel. Failure builds strength and accrues wisdom. It actually enables us to take more risks after we have allowed for some empathy and recovery. Our end goals remain and we ultimately achieve them when we are truly ready.

First published here (English version) and here (German version)

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