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.