Failing Forward


I had a discussion with my dad this morning and the topic of failure came up. I was retelling him some things I’d mentioned in my Publisher’s Weekly interview earlier, and one thing I’d said that it’s okay for teens to fail. I decided early on in my teens that this was the time of my life to be trying new things and not worrying about what would happen if they didn’t work out. Anyway, my dad brought up an interesting point. He told me that it’s never a bad thing to “fail forward”.

“Failing forward” means messing up. It means making mistakes, or bad decisions. It allows room for error and regret. But “failing forward” is all about moving on despite our failures. There are going to be times in life when you put yourself out there and your wildest hopes don’t come true. You don’t get into an ivy-league college or publish a book or start a successful business. Your dreams don’t come true and whatever it was you wanted doesn’t work out. But you know what? You have to learn to move forward in spite of it.

Too many young people put off reaching for their dreams because they are afraid of failure. It’s embarrassing to admit defeat! No one wants to be that person that started off with such high hopes only to have a bucket of cold water poured on them a little too late in the game. But the reason why I’m writing this post isn’t to scare you into quitting on your dreams. The reason why I’m writing is to kick you in the butt and make you get out there and chase your dreams anyway!

If you’re a teenager, chances are you still have pretty long life ahead of you. There’s a time to be cautious and fearful. That’s probably when you’re past your thirties, and have to start worrying about feeding a family and providing for your children. That’s the stage of life when it starts to get complicated as you balance following your dreams with balancing reality. And it’s a stage of life that’s really far away right now.

The teen (and post-teen!) years are a time for adventure and taking chances. There really is no better time for trying out new things. If you’ve always wanted to be a professional photographer, why not try starting a photography business? Who’s going to care if you fail? Or why not write that novel or start that jewelry company? Even if nothing comes of it, you have lost nothing. I mean, you literally have nothing to lose. If that thing you want doesn’t work out, then try something else!

Don’t waste this time in your life on video games and babysitting jobs, hoping that someday in the future you’ll be able to do what you really want to. Do that thing now. Try it. You just might succeed, and find yourself the happiest kid on earth. Or you might fail. Who knows? But one thing’s for sure: Succeed or fail, at this point in your life, either one is a step in a good direction. Because it’s the direction of doing what you want to do, and finding what makes you happy. And like my dad always says: “If you can find something you enjoy doing and find a way to make money at it, you’ll never work a day in your life.”


P.S. My dad is obsessed with this video and had us all watch it a few months back. If you have time, it’s really an incredible picture of what not giving up looks like. Always push forward, even if you feel it’s impossible. And let your failures shape your successes.


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  1. * Emii says:

    Oh wow, Rachel, thankyou so much for sharing this video. And hey, it’s Nick! He came to my church once.:) I am feeling so inspired, and am off to share this over at my blog. So again, thankyou for the video and those encouraging words.

    | Reply Posted 6 years, 5 months ago
  2. * Emily says:

    this is wonderful! Thanks for the encouraging words!

    | Reply Posted 6 years, 5 months ago
  3. * Novel Girl says:

    I love every bit of advice you give in this post. I’m still pinching myself remembering that you’re ONLY–what?–fifteen!? Crazy stuff. I was a bundle of words at fifteen … sort of.

    I turned 21 a few days ago. I started my current WIP novel at 19 and because I work full-time, it’s been hard progressing it through drafts as quick as I would’ve liked. And I’ve just started up my freelance editing business now so I’m reeeeaally tight on time. But–still–I love how things have turned out. I wish that I were querying agents at the moment but when I stop to think about my achievements I’m happy. I am going to publish this novel (traditionally!) when it’s done and I’m going to be a successful editor.

    I tell myself these things like there really never was–or will be–any other options. Therefore, I MUST succeed.

    The quote about finding something you love and turning it into a career is spot on. I love writing and editing so much I do it until the wee hours of the morning on my weekends. Now that’s a good measure of how satisfied writing and editing makes me.

    Phew, sorry for that. If you’re still with me, thanks for reading. 🙂

    | Reply Posted 6 years, 5 months ago
  4. * Melissa says:

    Rachel you are wise beyond your years and an inspiration to young people and adults! This is one of my favorite blogs thus far 🙂 Although I haven’t read anything that you’ve wrote that isn’t wonderful 🙂

    | Reply Posted 6 years, 5 months ago
  5. Wow. That was a beautiful video. Thank you for sharing!

    | Reply Posted 6 years, 5 months ago
  6. * Victoria Carson says:

    Rachel that was an amazing video thank you sooooo much for sharing!

    | Reply Posted 6 years ago

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