How to Fail Well

how to fail well

Sooo... last Thursday, I had an epic fail. EPIC.
It was embarrassing, it was frustrating, and I don’t think I’ve ever cursed so much in my life.
Here’s what happened…
Rob (hub), Bailey (bub) and I went on a little skiing trip to Squaw Valley, California. It was my second time skiing ever, and I decided to join 3 other ladies for a beginners’ class.

"Remember, if you're not falling, you're not trying!" says Rob, as he sends me on my way.

Well, let's just say, I tried REALLY hard.

I don't remember being this bad the first time round. While the other ladies were starting to practice turning, I was still having trouble stopping. They'd be gracefully sashaying their way to the bottom of the slope, while I'd still be fumbling and bumbling (and tumbling) at the top of the slope.

I’ve always considered myself a reasonably athletic, well-coordinated person (I was on the athletics team and went to dance school for crumbs sake!), so this was all rather baffling to me. I could feel myself starting to get stroppy, so I tried to coach myself out of it:

"Come on, Christina, it's all about FAILING WELL." This is Rob's all-time favourite motto as an educator, and I am ALL for it. But on this particular occasion, I was finding it exceptionally difficult to put into practice.

The more bruised my bum (and ego) got, the more badly I failed.

I could feel my head closing in. I started to tune the instructor out. I was getting seriously suspicious that there was something wrong with my skis. I was convinced that everybody thought I was an absolute idiot, and I was coming to the firm conclusion that skiing clearly wasn't for me and that I'd probably never ski again.

"WHY DO I KEEP SLIDING?!!" I cried out in exasperation at one point. "Well, sliding is part of skiing," replies Dave, the instructor. Mmm. I thought that was quite profound…

Anyhoo, lunch finally comes around, and I get a much needed breather. Right! I thought. Shake the morning off, take a break, make some friends, enjoy the view, and SHOW THIS SNOW WHO'S BOSS!!!

Well, within 30 seconds of being on the snow again, I was back on my bum, hurtling at an alarming speed towards the edge of a snow ledge, narrowly escaping the 2m drop by crashing into a ski rack.

squaw valley

By this point, it’s clear to Dave that I’m severely gravitationally challenged, so he holds his poles horizontally in front of me and tells me to grab on as he guides me down the slope, backwards, to the ski lift. It was actually very helpful, and I finally seemed to be getting the hang of it, until he let go and I went crashing into a barricade… #sigh…

It gets worse.

As we get to the ski lift, Dave explains how we must jump on and off the chair as it comes round. "Um, Christina, you sit next to me (since I clearly cannot be trusted). Tell me, what are we going to do when we get to the end?"

In as chirpy a voice as I can muster, I repeat his exact instructions: "Place skis in parallel position, tilt them upwards slightly, then as they reach the ground, rock forwards, push off the chair and stand all the way up."

Yup, you guessed it. I somehow manage to end up on the ground, skis flailing, completely discombobulated, trying to crawl out of the way so that the ski lift behind us wouldn't whack me in the head.

It was like Bridget Jones herself had taken over my body.

I'm now seriously holding the rest of the class up, so dear Dave tells me to stay put, practice some turns ‘in this nice, flat area’, and he'd be straight back once he'd led the other very competent, very confident beginners to their next slope. 

By this point, I'm so exhausted and kerfuffled that staying vertical is completely beyond me, and after 10 whole minutes of trying to get my foot back in its ski, I GIVE UP. Yup. I yank my other ski off, surrender to this beautiful monster of a mountain, and start to (shhhhhh) cry!

"I think you're done skiing for the day," says Dave, when he finally returns.

“Mm-hmmm!” I sniffle. Thank goodness for the big ski googles covering my face.

“Now, don’t let this discourage you from skiing again! When you weren’t falling, you were actually turning really well!” says Dave, as he sends me on my way back down the mountain.


fail in the right direction positively psyched

so what's a girl to do when things go tits-up?

1. Have a good mope if you need one (I certainly did), which typically makes it easier (if appropriate) to…

2. Have a giggle about the ridiculous / awkward / embarrassing things that happened (I continued to have flashback fits several days after the event!) and then, most importantly…

3. List the things that DID go well, because I'm SURE something did, however teeny-tiny, and…. 

4. List the things you learnt. I know its tempting to just block the whole thing from our memories. But if we don't do this step properly, we run the risk of 'doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results', and that, according to Mr Einstein, is the definition of insanity.
5. And finally, ask yourself if the end-game matters enough for you to keep trying. Because honestly, if getting good at what you’re doing doesn’t ultimately bring you joy or reward, it probably isn’t worth torturing yourself for the heck of it.

I still think it would be freakin’ amazing to be able to fly down one of those mountains with Rob and Bailey, so I’m going to suck up being a bumbling beginner for the next 10 years, and trust that I'll get there some day.

Positively Psyched Christina Paul Squaw Valley

Now, we all know what it means to fail well. We know that failure is simply the opportunity to do better next time. We know that the Oprah Winfreys and Walt Disneys and Steve Jobs of this world all ‘failed their way to success’.

But when it comes down to it, do we actually go through the steps to cash-in on that screw-up? Or do we let it turn us off, keep us down, and leave a bitter taste in our mouths?


Just 5 questions to help you turn that fail into your fuel, and keep slipping and sliding towards success.