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Wednesday Wisdom: Do we really want to #FailForward?

The word, fail seems so finite. Merriam-Webster defines fail in a number of ways: 1) to lose strength; to fade or die away; to stop functioning normally; or better yet, 2) to fall short; to become absent or inadequate; to be unsuccessful. So I ask, how in the world are we doing that forward? Words matter. And the way we put them together matters even more. So before we jump on the latest hashtag, business jargon, metric, etc. let's at least ask if what we are saying is what we are really saying.


Don't worry, I am not trying to move your cheese. I'm just trying to orbit the giant hairball that is this combination of words that are supposed to mean something to those of us encouraging our teams to go forth and follow the rules of the red rubber ball.* Wouldn't failing forward signify a willingness to bring our weakest and final (unsuccessful) outcomes forward? Stay with me ... I mean no disrespect to the #FailForward movement (I love alliteration too!), but fail seems to signify a full stop, period, finito. And while I completely understand and applaud what the business buzz phrase is trying to convey, I might suggest that there is a better rally cry for those of us who want to learn from our unintended consequences.


I propose that we #FumbleForward instead. You see, a fumble is something that can be recovered and is often celebrated. It's an unexpected misstep of sorts and doesn't necessarily end the play. In fact, some of the most exciting moments in American football have been recovered fumbles, am I right? I am hardly a football fan, but given the yelling of the word FUMBLE! accompanied by exuberant leaps off the couch, I'd say it is true that most everyone loves a good fumble.


So work hard, run the play, learn from it. And when someone knocks the ball out of your grip or you can't seem to stay on your feet, just yell FUMBLE!, recover what you can, and keep your eyes on the end zone. Then get your team to line back up and run a new play. Someone, somewhere is leaping off the couch to cheer you on. #FumbleForward


*Points for anyone who sees what I did there 😊



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© 2021 Carol A. Meyer. Background video courtesy of cinematographer Mark Carroll (outerside.com)