About Me

What Does Fail Forward Mean?

Dr. Stephen (Steve) Stancyk was the best mentor I could ever ask for.  I learned to fail forward because of him.  Crying in his office because I was on the verge of failing honors organic chemistry my junior (?) year of college he said to me:

“Megan, you’ve fallen down and skinned your knees. Jump up and keep moving forward.”

So I picked my sorry little self up off the ground, put band aids on my skinned knees and tried again. And I just kept failing.

While I deeply admired my honors organic chemistry professor, I also hated him because he told me early in the semester I would only pass his class if I quit every single extracurricular activity and my job so I could study. I told him I would not do that.

I struggled the entire semester.  I dreaded when he called on me in class.  I continued to barely pass exams.  I went to every review session he offered.  I had to pass the course with a ‘C’ or better to receive my degree.  The pressure was on.

The day of reckoning, finals, loomed large when he stopped me in the hallway and told me I should “review my previous exams.”

I did the only thing I could think of. I memorized every single question and answer on the previous exams.

When I read the final exam questions I was shocked.  Every single question was from a previous exam!

My heart stopped when my phone rang a few days later and it was my organic chemistry professor saying, “I have the results of your final.”

“You passed my class with a ‘C’. I’ve never seen someone try so hard. Congratulations.”

This is what I mean when I say, “Fail forward.”  Failure isn’t fatal. In fact, it’s critical. I’m not suggesting that we seek failure, but it is inevitable.  When you fail, learn from it, and move forward.