Life and Inspiration

Recovering From Failure: Learning From the Fall


So there I was. Once again. A Black woman on the other side of 40, no savings, no job, no degree, not a whole hell of a lot of options and most awesome of all: no idea how in the hell I was going to make it.
Now, it has to be said that I have always been what some would call…impulsive. Others might call it irresponsible, flighty, fickle…I don’t know. I say I’ve always been searching. For what, I’ve never quite been able to pin down. Jill Scott’s “Just Wanna Be Loved” is the only song I’ve ever heard that accurately describes the “constant, burning/a strong deep desire/an aching, ambiguous yearning…for something bigger, for something better, for something wider, for something higher…” That’s me. Always feeling like I was never in the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing. Ever. Never being able to name or define what it was that I needed, wanted, or was supposed to be.

Avid watcher of Oprah, seeker of enlightenment, chakra-aligning, Iyanla Vanzant mentee (in my mind, anyway) and “Four Agreements” devotee that I am, I am forever and always in search of the elusive “Aha! Moment”. I’d like to think I’ve experienced the phenomenon once or twice. But what happens when your “Aha! Moment” leads you to the most fantastic, most fabulous, most utterly-complete, ass-breaking, pride-destroying fall you’ve ever taken? Recovering from failure, when you never saw it coming, can be devastating.

Unfortunately, I’ve also experienced the aftershock of acting on what I thought was “divine inspiration”, only to punch even bigger holes in my life than I started out with. I know all too well, that sinking feeling that starts in your core, and begins to creep up your spine when you realize that quitting your job, sinking your savings into your “passion”, or moving across the country without a backup plan may not have been the brightest thing to do. And the paralyzing cycle of shame, guilt, anger, depression and confusion that inevitably follows. That’s what this post is about. What do you do when your “leap of faith” ends up with you lying in the dirt, seemingly worse off than you were before?

Seeing as how I am such a voracious student of all things self-development, my first thought when I find myself on the ground, looking up at the sky and wondering how I could possibly have fucked up my already fucked up life even more, is to look for the lesson. Because that’s what you’re supposed to do right? Look for the lesson. And God bless those folks who, while lying there, broken, bruised, bloodied and battered are able to discern the lesson that the universe is teaching them through the absolute demolishing of their dreams. Those folks who are able to pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and try again. They’re the ones who say shit like: It’s not a set-back. It’s a set-up for a comeback!” and “God’s delay is not God’s denial.”  Ugh. I can’t even.

As you can probably tell, I am not one of those people. All I can do when I hit the ground, is wonder why the fuck I jumped off that gotdamned cliff in the first gotdamned place. All I can feel is the pain. All I can see are the bruises. And of course, I immediately get to work inflicting internal, emotional and spiritual wounds on myself. How could I have been soooooo stupid? AGAIN!!??? How could I have put myself in this same predicament? AGAIN!!??? Why can’t I get it right? What the fuck am I even doing here? Unhelpful though it might be, self-recrimination is my specialty. One thing about me though, I will Google some shit in a heartbeat. Oddly enough, I have found the answer to many a life problem after a brief search.

It was after one such search that I found a wonderful article about recovering from shame when you take a risk and things don’t go the way you planned. There was a small part of that article that absolutely freed me from the stranglehold of fear and self-doubt brought about by my latest (what some might call) “hair brained scheme”. The writer mentioned that there are lessons to be learned during the fall. Not after, when some of us are too broken to think clearly, but on the way down. I’ll elaborate.

It is during the fall that you realize exactly why you need a parachute to jump out of a plane. Or why you need a helmet to ride a motorcycle. Or why you strap up your seat-belt before you pull out of your parking space. It is during the fall that you come to appreciate the need for planning and preparation. It becomes plain, the reason why a person would go to a job they hate, every day, for years. Or why someone would delay their dream of going to school until their kids were grown, or put off opening their business until they’ve saved enough money to live off of until the business starts to see a profit. It’s during the fall, that you come to understand why the hell you’re falling in the first place.

I can honestly say, that in the case of most of my failed endeavors, lack of planning, patience and discipline played a major role in that failure. Plain and simple. But once you’ve failed, it can be too painful to face the truth. Yeah, you eventually pick yourself up, move on and jump off the next cliff, but I can also honestly say, that until you understand why you fell, you will just find yourself falling over and over again. Until you’re too battered and broken to even try anymore. Which leads me to my next point: you should never let go of whatever force propelled you to take that leap in the first place.

It’s true—shit went sideways. It didn’t work out. At all. But there was something inside you. Something divine, that bugged you, nagged at you, wouldn’t leave you alone until you did something, anything to move yourself closer to your true purpose. Something inspired you to risk everything you had on that one chance. That job in a state where you had no friends or relatives. That relationship that everyone was iffy about, but you were willing to try. The inner-call to create your own “dream job”, since you couldn’t find it in craigslist ads or on There was an actual, literal force that moved you. The only problem was that you didn’t have the info you needed to make it work. This time.

But, just as true; it’s the lessons you learned while you were plummeting toward that ground at 60 miles per hour—the realization that maybe your timing wasn’t right, maybe you weren’t ready for the responsibility, maybe you hadn’t gathered enough capital to fund your venture properly…or, in my case, maybe you didn’t give yourself enough time to handle basic, everyday financial matters before striking out to “walk in your purpose”—that are the necessary components that you’ll pack in your bag before you take your next leap. And you will leap again. Trust me.

Life is change. Life is evolution. We can’t help but to take those leaps, because, even if we do end up delaying our plans, or falling flat on our faces, we were created to do, be and have all that was meant for us. There really is more to life than waking up, punching in, punching out and doing it all over again the next day, but the life we make while we dream, plan and execute has value too. Working a job you hate is offset (at least a little), by the relief you feel when you can pay your bills every month. Saving sucks, because it means you have to deny yourself some things, but there is true joy in watching the amount in your account grow every time you make a deposit. Shit gets hard, but that’s not the end of the story.

So, the next time you find yourself flat on your broken back, looking up at the sky and wondering how you could have been so wrong, when everything in you told you it was the right move to make, close your eyes, block out the pain and remember the fall. The lessons you need are there. Eventually, you will pick yourself up, and you will try again, but the next time, you’ll be much better equipped. I promise.

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