Freedom to Fail: 8 Lessons to Bring You Back!

Freedom to Fail: 8 Lessons to Bring You Back!

Freedom to Fail: 8 Lessons to Bring You Back!

A couple weeks ago I made a big mistake at work.  I’ve made mistakes before, but I think this one takes the cake. It had to do with hiring a very worthy individual.  I made a great choice, this candidate was very worthy and would be a great hire.

Unfortunately, in my excitement to bring this person on, I made a rush decision without going through the normal hiring process.

Just after I had concluded the interview, I immediately called my wife Lisa, to share the good news. My wife, being the one with the level head, said to me “what were you thinking?  Didn’t you involve your partners in this decision?”

Then it all came rushing over, what in the world did I just do? I went from thrilled to “oh no!” in about two seconds.

After my phone call with Lisa, I met with my partners still hoping they would be just as excited. After all, these are men that I respect and who support me.

Needless to say, my partners went from surprise, to shock – “How are you going to fix this?” – I knew I needed to take action so I gave my self 24 hours to see if I could magically find a GREAT solution.

I went home that night wishing that I could call a “1-800-GOD-HELP-ME” hotline to get some direction – wouldn’t it be great if just one simple phone call could fix everything!  But I also realized that this error was my responsibility to fix, and after much soul searching I knew what I had to do. I called this perfectly wonderful candidate, who I knew well and respected, and explained how sorry and embarrassed I was for making such a rush decision without any normal process or council from my valued partners.

As difficult as this phone call was, the mistake was mine.  Incredibly, she was kind, compassionate and knew that I valued her. I did not loose her respect and I kept our friendship in tact. I’m also grateful that my partners were equally kind and compassionate.

I believe failure can be healthy if you learn from it. Here are the 8 lessons I have put to good use:

  1. Take your time: In major decisions you need to keep you emotions out of the process and try to arrive at a wise & logical solution. You will almost never make a great decision in a rush.
  2. Involve your team or council: The more eyes and ears you have to shape a decision the better the outcome. My executive team was very supportive in helping me look at all sides of this outcome and they allowed me the freedom to find a better solution.
  3. Acknowledge your failures: Once you acknowledge failure you take away its power and can turn it into something positive. Acknowledgement is the first step to recovery.
  4. Take full responsibility for your actions: When you take responsibility for your actions you become fully accountable to those around you. This accountability not only gives you the ability to take control of the issue, but can also provide a teachable moment for others. It’s all about integrity.
  5. Mourn your failure:  If you don’t take it to heart you may repeat the mistake. I am dealing with it and am using this blog as part of my coping process.
  6. Learn the lesson: I never want to fail the same way twice; it shows irresponsibility & insincerity. In this instance I’ve learned to value patience & collaboration when it comes to making big decisions.
  7. Change your behavior: Once you identify how you made your mistake take steps to monitor your actions (this can actually make your brain grow!). If you don’t the odds of repeating it are great.
  8. Give it your all:  I have to admit it took me about 10 days to recover from this. But I didn’t want to become a hostage to my guilt; I knew I had to forgive myself and move on. Our time and energy are limited and we can’t afford to wallow too long in the aftermath. Click here to read about J.K. Rowling‘s battle with failure, it’s a great story!

After this embarrassing lesson, I have recommitted myself to slowing down, seeking guidance, and not being reactionary. I’ve learned that failure is a powerful teacher and I’m grateful that positive lessons have come out of a poor decision.

What failures have you learned from?

Molly Keating
Molly Keating
Hello! I'm Molly and I run & manage the Blog here at O'Connor. I grew up in a mortuary with a mortician for a father who's deep respect for the profession inspired me to give working at a mortuary a try. Work at O'Connor has brought together two of my deep passions, writing & grief awareness. In 2016 I earned Certification in the field of Thanatology, the study of Death, Dying and Bereavement. I am honored to be able to speak on these taboo topics with knowledge, compassion, and a unique perspective. I want to sincerely thank you for following & reading the blog, I hope that this is a healing place for you.


  1. Mark says:

    Neil…..Thank you for being transparent and honest. How refreshing to work for a boss who admits that he is not perfect and that he may not be right every single time! Please remember this blog the next time you call me to room 4..


    • Neil says:

      Hi Mark –

      Thank you for your reply!
      I can only live with my self, so what ever I do, good or bad stays with me. Recovery is the best way to move beyond our limitations.


  2. Cheryl Lanterna says:

    Hi Neil,
    Isn’t it amazing that somehow “there are no accidents”? Reading this today and having it relate to my work life as well as my personal life is just what I needed! The subject is so relevant to all of us and being reminded that we all experience failures and that even people we respect (like you), have the same ups and downs gives all of us permission to be gentler with our selves and to continue to learn and grow. Thanks for all of the information and the links to more useful and helpful information! Am sending it out too!

    • Neil says:

      Hi Cheryl –

      Thank you for your reply. I am glad you could relate to me, there are times in my life when I feel like I am alone in this journey. I was afraid to even send this out to you and the rest of our community, then I just said forget my fear and live bold. We can never go back in time, we can only move forward from our learning lesson. Thank you for your support and love! XO


  3. Kim Stacey says:

    Brilliant! My dear friend, you are such an inspiration. “Owning” our mistakes is a powerful thing, which always leads us to deeper insights into the workings of our mind. And, as Jeff noted, C.S. Lewis was right…”my God, do you learn.” I doubt you’ll ever make that same mistake again.

    Different ones, yes. Whatever they may be, I’d add this to the list: Be compassionate with yourself. You’re only human!

    • Neil says:

      Hi Kim –

      Thank you for your words of wisdom. You are 110% right, I am not going to make that mistake twice. I agree to not beat my self up over the recovery of learning.


  4. Jeff Turner says:


    I watched you go through this event and it was hard to watch you go through it. Like many difficulties in life, we want to alleviate other’s pain. Somehow, God has designed all circumstances that come our way to be formative, even of benefit to us. For years you have talked to our staff that they have the freedom to fail, understanding the reality of our condition that we just are not perfect. How we are formed by circumstances, relationships, successes and failures seems, like so many things in life, dependent upon our attitude and what we do with it.

    I know you were saying some pretty harsh things to yourself as you navigated the fallout but I also saw in you the desire to be reflective and examine the “why” of your actions. It was not out of a desire to further self accuse, rather to better understand motivations, fears, triggers and any other detail that you could learn from. Giving yourself some grace, cutting yourself slack, letting it be OK for YOU to fail was a lesson that spoke to all of us.

    Thanks for being transparent about this condition that we all hold in common. Thanks for being willing to fail and not hide it, but share it and help us all to learn. Improvement is the by product of good and bad experiences reflected upon with a balanced self awareness.

    C. S. Lewis said “Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.”

    I appreciate all you have taught me and I’m glad we’re in this together.

    Now, go screw up something else.


    • Neil says:

      Hi Jeff –

      Thanks for your reply! I love the quote from C.S. Lewis. I like to use the quote no pain, no gain. Believe me I find ways to create pain in my life. I will find ways to celebrate my failures, you are welcome to join me misery loves company.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *