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. Christopher Iverson says:


    Wow! A CEO who is brave enough and bold enough to write this blog. You make us all proud. Remember, as the great Tom Hopkins teaches, “Success is the continuous journey to the achievement of pre-determined, worthwhile goals.” Sometimes failure gets in the way, but it is only the opportunity to change course in our direction in order to perfect our performances. I know from too much experience. Thank you. Peace Always! Chris

    • Neil says:

      Hi Chris –

      Thanks for your reply!

      I love the quote that you have shared with me over time by Tom Hopkins. Life is full of course adjustments.


  2. Lori Bristol says:


    It takes a big man to admit such a mistake.
    I too can act based on emotion, big surprise, and regret my decision after the fact.
    I admire you for seeking and listening to Lisa’s advice.
    Failures are a necessary part of life or how else would we learn?
    Thank you for the advice on preventing and/or recovering from failure.

    Great post!

    • Neil says:

      Hi Lori –

      Thank you for your reply!
      I have recently learned that I have an overriding reactionary personality. WOW, News flash to everyone.
      So I am doing my best to balance my emotions to a more logical approach in my life.


  3. Elsa says:


    • Neil says:

      Hi Elsa –

      Thank you for your reply!
      The message of being honest, transparent and human is powerful.
      This has been a life lesson for me, I cannot stand my self when I fail. I feel less than human or adequate.
      I appreciate your understanding of this message.


  4. ardy martin says:

    Hi Neal, Wow, your message is so empowering. I spent 20 years in the insurance business. When I retired, I did not leave with one single friend. Two years later I joined O’Connor’s, part time. I must tell you that I have never felt more affection and love, just from being a part of such an awesome group of people. The fact that you encourage all of us to be ourselves, but also to ‘think outside the box’ is extraordinary. I thank God everyday for the opportunity I have been given to be part of such a great place of SERVICE. With love and appreciation, Ardy

    • Neil says:

      Hi Ardy –

      Thank you for your reply! You are such a joy to be with, it is always great to be in your company.
      You make our company great with the rest of the team.


  5. A great word Neil…there are so many lessons learned in our failures, yet very few from our successes.

    Thanks for a great post and needed encouragement!

    • Neil says:

      Hi Joey –

      Thanks for your support!
      I have learned more about my self in painful situations than I have the joys of life.


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