What do do when you fail

What to Do When You Fail

When you lose, it hurts. Don't ever look at someone and think they don't lose. Don't think that others don't fall. They do. We all fail at some time. I failed today. It hurts.

In Steven King's book On Writinghe talks about the many rejection letters he had nailed to the wall in the attic at his home. You lose 100% of the shots you don't take. We all fail. We all fall.

I've been struggling with failure and falling this week. At the midpoint of a mega-app programming project with 60 of my students, I'm exhausted and pondered quitting. This morning I got a rejection notice for something I had pitched. I gave it everything I had and believed I was the best candidate. I wasn't chosen. It nearly broke my heart. In self-pity, I considered letting it take me down. But it didn't. I won't let it.

Yesterday, Michael Hyatt‘s podcast on “Don't Quit Before the Whistle Blows” was one I needed to hear. He mentioned Heather Dorniden's 600 meter race . In the middle of this 600 meter, Heather falls FLAT ON HER FACE. Instead of limping off the track, she comes back in a Secretariat like move – WINS. You lose every race you QUIT. Every single one. You never know – sometimes when you fail and fall down – you end up winning the race you thought you had lost.

So, as I called my husband at work on the early side of 6 am to tell him my disappointment, I said,

“Well, I guess I'll have to keep on moving ahead by working hard every single day. There's no such thing as a ‘big break' for me only working every single day.”

In his wisdom, Kip said,

“Welcome to life. Usually there's no such thing as a big break or an easy win. Only very very hard work that pays off in the end.”

We all want to achieve things. For me, I have a weakness. I guess you could call it that. I love amazing people. In many ways, I've always attracted these amazingly busy people as my friends. I love people who overcome. I love people who defy the odds. I love people who are exceptional achievers. I want to sit at their feet and learn from them. I adore amazing. Not (usually) famous, mind you. But people who work hard every day and live exceptional lives.

  • Like my 87-year-old learning lab director, Grace Adkins, who rides 120 miles A DAY on her stationary bike.
  • Or my curriculum director, Betty Shiver, who convinced me to get into teaching.
  • Or people like my new friend Cathy Rubin, who thinks big and dreams bigger.
  • Or my friend Angela Maiers, who pushes hard to help people know they matter after the heartbreak of losing a brother who didn't know it.
  • Or my friend Kevin Honeycutt, who releases new music on iTunes that he cuts in his basement with friends (in between amazing keynotes). Yet, Kevin takes the time to draw a picture of my son on a napkin to make him feel amazing. My son, John, keeps that napkin in his room and looks at it every day.
  • Or my friend Lee Kolbert, who always bravely says what needs to be said in hard situations. One time the sharks were circling me, and Lee was the only one who spoke and brought reason to the insanity.
  • Or my friends at Edutopia who incessantly push to be more — Betty Ray, Kristin Franklin, and my editor Alan Lipton. I learn just from our email exchanges and Facebook group.
  • Or my friend Lisa Durff, who tirelessly helps me with my inundated email box, so when I come home I can work on the main thing. When I'm exhausted, she helps me rachet down and get some rest. I'm a better person with her helping me.
  • Or my friend Errol Smith, who tirelessly brings radio quality to the Internet and mentors me or his wife, Jeannette, who just knows what to say every time I talk to her.
  • Or my friend Steve Dembo, who showed me Twitter all those years ago and encourages me with his life.
  • Or my friend Alicia Roberts, who hosted me in her home with the most beautiful office I've ever seen and a gorgeous view of the Arizona desert.
  • Or my dear pastor Michael Catt, who has encouraged me to keep writing as I rise from the scars of a terrible situation with another man I will not call a pastor but who had that job. He is brave and cares more about telling the truth than being popular. He brings people like Andy Andrews, Dr. Charles Lowery, and Jon Acuff to our church to inspire us. If he sees or reads someone awesome, he picks up the phone so he can introduce his church members to awesome too.

How could I consider myself a loser with friends like this (and at least 100 more that I don't have time to write about and still make it to school this morning)? Or you — I find all these amazing people when I go to conferences and just fall in love with them.

Or you — I find all these amazing people when I go to conferences and just fall in love with them. (I've found that the people who RUN conferences tend to be AMAZING people by nature. They give so much and work so hard.)  These epic people who live awesome lives without being on everyone's lips or having more dollars in the bank than they have breaths to take in their life.

But the one common thing is that all of them keep going. How can I be an epic person when I let losing make me quit? How can I be like them when I hang my head and walk out of the race when I fall?

Come to think of it, how can I teach these precious students who fail every day at something if I don't embrace my own.

The question is never, “Do I quit after this no?” It is always, “Will I keep telling myself ‘yes'?”

[tweetthis twitter_handles=”@coolcatteacher”]The question is never, “Do I quit after this no?” It is always, “Will I keep telling myself ‘yes'?”[/tweetthis]

This morning as I worked out to my Daily Burn, the “True Beginner” Coach, Justin, said

[tweetthis twitter_handles=”@justinrubin”]No challenge. No change. Justin Rubin[/tweetthis]

He's right.

When you lose, you only have one option. Take the challenge and change. Get up and move forward so you can win. Falling down doesn't have to be your permanent position if you get up and keep running. Getting told “no” is just one more “no” that you have behind you as you move to “yes!”

As for me, I will not quit. I will not stop. I will keep moving ahead in my calling to write, encourage, and inspire. I'll keep moving forward into my calling to teach, encourage, and help these precious students in my care. Though I hurt, I will not blame. I will pick myself up – learn – and move ahead.

I will not quit. I will not give up.

I will survive, and I will thrive.

Fail forward. You can do this.

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Jamie February 6, 2015 - 10:10 am

Thank you for your authenticity and vulnerability as you processed through this step along your journey. Sharing your story encourages me to keep pursuing what is important even in the face of opposition or misunderstanding from others. Reading about those who inspire you has got me thinking about the ‘everyday’ people in my life that inspire me, including you. Thank you for your perseverance and your insight. You will emerge stronger as a result of this experience.

Vicki Davis February 6, 2015 - 11:38 am

Thanks Jamie for your encouragement. I was so upset this morning that I knew I had to write. It is how I process. It is how I emerge stronger. It is also through these deep struggles that some of the most encouragement happens for others. Problems are not wasted when you can use them to help others. Thanks for helping me. I just had 2 teachers here who knew about the situation just be kind and encouraging. We ended up having a belly laugh and agreed I just have to move forward. Such is life.

Amanda February 6, 2015 - 11:35 am

This is so timely. I am currently in the early stages of a big project, my kids ask all the time how it’s going and my cheeks immediately flush with shame. Slow, so very slow, but I don’t want to say that, nor do I want to tell them that sometimes life gets too complicated, but your words remind me that I just need to keep going and that everyone is dusting themselves off from one thing or another.

Thank you.

Vicki Davis February 6, 2015 - 12:41 pm

Oh Amanda — I so feel the same way about my third book. My family keeps asking when I’m going to be done. I’m not close but I keep plugging and you can do it too, Amanda. Keep on plugging.

Jerry Blumengarten February 6, 2015 - 5:41 pm


I have committed the following which I feel is very helpful to memory and I shared this with my students and athletes I coached.

If you think you are beaten, you are;
if you think you dare not, you don’t;
if you like to win, but you think you can’t
it’s almost certain you won’t.

Life’s battles don’t always go
to the stronger or faster man,
but sooner or later the man who wins
is the one who thinks he can.

Vicki Davis February 9, 2015 - 5:24 pm

I love this Jerry! Yet another reason you’re so incredible!! It makes sense why you were such a winning track coach! Wow!

Kasey February 7, 2015 - 10:50 am

Vicki, Thanks so very much for your post. This came at an incredibly pivotal moment in my school year. I will fail forward and I will keep going. The retelling of your inspiration has certainly inspired me and my students will have a better teacher. Thanks again!

Vicki Davis February 7, 2015 - 12:57 pm

Wow Kasey! You can make it! Keep plugging! We all struggle but we can always reboot!!

Gary Gruber March 16, 2015 - 10:23 am

There are simply no guarantees regarding outcomes whether in teaching, pitching, negotiating, experimenting, climbing, running, sailing, competing and the list goes on. You can have some of the best players on a well-coached team and still lose the game. Being a winner is bigger than the score or getting a contract. We have all been knocked down at some time and our response to that experience says a lot about who we are. what we learned and what we will do next.

Vicki Davis March 19, 2015 - 5:44 am

Well said, Gary. What a truthful, pithy statement. What did we learn? What will we do next? That says so much about what kind of person we are. Thank you for sharing that!


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Vicki Davis writes The Cool Cat Teacher Blog for classroom teachers everywhere
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