Failing Forward: 7 Stories of Success Through Failure
The story of how I got my first job was very different than the story of how many other people have gotten their jobs. My story started with a friend’s suggestion to me one day at work. “You should go talk to someone.” She said. So I did, and she introduced me to her boss’ assistant.
He had been fired recently and asked if he could interview for another position in his department. After talking with him, I decided it would be best if I went back to my friend’s office and told her what happened.
Her response was, “Well then why didn’t you just tell your mom?”
I wasn’t sure how to respond so I thought about it some more before replying. “My mom doesn’t live far away and she might not even be home right now.” That seemed like a good enough answer so I continued on my way.
As I walked down the street, I saw a young woman walking toward me. She looked pretty but was dressed in casual clothing. She wore glasses and her hair was short. At first glance, she didn’t seem like anyone special or interesting, but when I stopped to talk to her, things changed.
So how old are you?”
I asked her. “Twenty-two,” she replied without looking up from where she was reading a book on her phone. “
What are you reading?”
I continued. She looked up and focused her eyes on me for the first time. After looking me up and down once, she looked back at her phone and began reading where she left off, “It’s about a boy who has to pass a test to get into this magic school.”
I had the strong urge to interrupt her again but forced myself to remain quiet. After three minutes had passed, she finally closed her phone and looked at me. “
What do you want?”
“Nothing,” I replied, a little bit shocked by how rude she was. “I was just walking down this street when I noticed you reading something on your phone.”
That seemed to shut her up so I continued, “What’s your favorite book?”
She gave me a dirty look and said, “Are you seriously asking me that right now?”
I was about to say something else when a car pulled up beside us.
Would you like a ride somewhere?”
the man driving the car called to us. “Yeah, I’d love to,” she said while walking over to the passenger side and getting in. She turned around one last time before closing the door and said, “But it would be impossible for you to.” With that, the man drove away.
Well that was weird, I thought. As I made my way to my mom’s house, I couldn’t stop thinking about the girl I just met. I would have given anything to sit beside her on that car ride.
When I got to my mom’s house, she wasn’t there so I headed back to the street the girl was on before. This time I walked up and down the same path hoping that I would run into her again or something else interesting would happen.
After an hour had passed, I finally gave up and walked home. I would just have to wait until tomorrow to see her again.
The next day, I got off of the bus and headed down the street. I was only halfway to my mom’s house when I saw her walking toward me. She looked exactly as I remembered. I didn’t know what to say so I just stood there with a big smile on my face. “You’re back,” I said when she walked up to me.
She glared at me and kept on walking, as if she hadn’t heard me at all.
I didn’t know what to do, so I just stood there watching her walk away until she got to a street corner. She must have sensed that I was standing there because she turned her head around and looked back at me. This time, instead of a dirty look, she gave me a small smile and waved at me. I waved back and started toward the street corner she was on. I had only taken a few steps when a black car pulled up beside me.
“Get in,” a man dressed in a black suit said through the passenger window.
His face was serious and his voice sounded urgent. I looked around me but saw no one else on the street. There was no way I could run away from him. Sighing, I opened the door and got inside. “Hello,” I said simply.
The man didn’t respond, he just stared straight ahead.
Was he waiting for me to say something?
Where are we going?”
I asked, just to break the silence. “To see the Director,” he responded without turning his head. I was about to ask who the director was when I saw a sign that read “WELCOME TO THE DAVIDSON INSTITUTE.”
“We’re here,” I told him. He looked at me with a scowl on his face. “I know that smart alec,” he said. He got out of the car and opened my door. He held his hand out for me to take.
I didn’t really have a choice, so I placed my hand in his and let him help me out of the car.
We walked up to a giant building that I could only assume was the institute, he opened the door for me and I walked inside. The entrance hall was bigger than my whole house! An old man with a broom came out of a door to the right and walked up to us. “
Oh, you brought him here yourself?
That’s unusual. Well anyway, I am the director of this institute. You are now a guest of ours and you will be treated with respect and fairness here. This is my assistant Wally, he will be showing you around.” The director turned around and walked back through the door he had come from.
Wally smiled at me. His face was so friendly and he was quite possibly the happiest man I had ever seen. He must know something I don’t. “Come this way please,” Wally said cheerfully and started walking up a staircase. I followed him up to the first floor and we started walking down a hallway with many doors on both sides.
Wally stopped at one of these doors and opened it. “This will be your room,” he told me.
The room had a small bed, a wardrobe, a bookshelf and a desk with a chair. All the basics. It was more than I expected, really. I put my bag of belongings on the floor and Wally led me to another room further down the hall. “These are the bathrooms,” he told me and left.
I looked in and saw three toilets and three showers divided into three rooms, all with doors. One for each gender I suppose. I went back to my room and relaxed until dinner time. Wally came and fetched me then, and took me to the dining hall.
There was already a crowd of kids sitting at the tables. They were all laughing and chatting with each other. I felt really awkward and out of place. “Just ignore them,” Wally said quietly to me and led me over to a table at the back of the room with only one other kid sitting there. “You can sit here.”
Wally left me and went to sit with his friends at another table across the room. The kid at the table smiled at me. He had freckles and big round glasses; he looked a bit like a nerd. “Hi, I’m Daniel,” he introduced himself.
“I’m Cameron,” I told him.
Are you new here?”
he asked. I realized then that all the kids here already knew each other and I was the only stranger.
“Yeah, I just moved here from Alaska,” I told him.
“Wow, that’s far.
How do you like it here so far?”
“It’s different,” I said truthfully.
“You will get used to the system here. It’s not that hard, really.”
I looked over to where Wally was sitting. He was wearing a black suit and had short spiky hair. He laughed at something one of the other boys said and shook his head. I couldn’t believe he was the dangerous one everyone was afraid of. He seemed so nice.
“You will have to do something about your hair, though,” Daniel continued. “You can’t have hair that hangs down below your shirt, that’s against the rules. And you can’t color it either. All haircuts and hair colors are assigned based on what the computer thinks looks best on you. It’s in the rules manual under chapter three, paragraph four.”
I ran my hand through my long hair. I had been growing it ever since I was little and mom would cut it because she didn’t like cutting it. I had almost reached my shoulders.
Sources & references used in this article:
Failing forward by JC Maxwell – 2007 – books.google.com
Examining a history of failed reforms and recent stories of success: Mathematics education and Black learners of mathematics in the United States by RQ Berry III, M Ellis, S Hughes – Race Ethnicity and Education, 2014 – Taylor & Francis
Falling forward: Real options reasoning and entrepreneurial failure by RG McGrath – Academy of Management review, 1999 – journals.aom.org
Failing to learn? The effects of failure and success on organizational learning in the global orbital launch vehicle industry by PM Madsen, V Desai – Academy of management journal, 2010 – journals.aom.org
Learning from others’ failures: The effectiveness of failure stories for managerial learning by S Mallaby – 2006 – Penguin
Failed diplomacy: The tragic story of how North Korea got the bomb by R Bledow, B Carette, J Kühnel… – Academy of Management …, 2017 – journals.aom.org