Turning failure into a positive

by Debs Jewell @jewellsjournal

It has been many years since I flexed my blogging muscles but this seemed a good post to start with. The first of a series of posts containing a collaborative pooling of ideas about dreams, friendships, networks, support, helping each other to navigate the daily grind, empowering a tribe, assembling a crew … you get the picture.


In short the importance of #connection.

Yesterday I met up for coffee with Kate (@purekathryn76) and Kerry (@KerryJordanDaus) to finalise plans for the @WomenEdSE LeadMeet and we got chatting about the impact on our lives of last year’s #WomenEd unconference. [Actually there’s a back story to how Kate and I landed up at that unconference and impact of a friendship formed on that trip but we will save that for another post before I digress too far from the purpose of this one].

So while we were enjoying our coffees the three of us reminisced about the seven women who travelled from Kent to attend the #WomenEd unconference. An outcome of meeting up together was Kate volunteered to organise a #WomenEd lead meet for Kent educators and Kerry offered her knowledge and support to do so (my role in this process was far more low key and background’ish) and thus new friendships were seeded. 

Kate and I learnt and shared a lot in the workshops we attended that day but the lasting impact of the unconference is the realisation of the importance of #connection and #collaboration with other women in education. And, of course, the challenge to be 10%braver. 

The three of us discussed how we are learning that great things happen in our lives when we commit to being 10% braver, however the greatness is not always obvious or evident to us at first.

Indulge us a little as we as we try illustrate what we mean by sharing a few of the personal experiences we have walked through on this educational career path. Experiences that have challenged us to recognise that being 10% braver carries a risk of failure. In fact, we are learning that failure is necessary to learning, that we must embrace a culture of ‘feeling the fear and doing it anyway’, that true connection and collaboration allows for this and this is what empowers us. We are communal creatures, even the most introverted of us need some kind of connection with others, Kerry referred to it as the rhizomatic effect of connection (I’ll pause while you look it up, don’t feel embarrassed as I had to Google it too).

Anyway, we have all walked the path we labelled failure:

  • of being told we’re good but not quite good enough;
  • that everyone knows and talks about us and how important we are to the organisation but reality sees the promotion given to someone else;
  • that many people recognise the huge impact we have in our job but that our face doesn’t quite fit the role on offer so it will be given to another less experienced but outwardly more appropriate-looking person;
  • that we have all the right traits for a leadership/headship/management but when getting down to the final lap are told maybe not at this time;
  • we have been encouraged and advised to apply for jobs then are not invited to interview;
  • we have been so invisible in the workplace that the things we do are not noticed or acknowledged until we are no longer there to do them and then it’s too late; and so on.

So, as we sat there involved in a conversation, three educated, bright, beautiful, capable, powerful women talking about rejection, we realised something. That through sharing these experiences with each other we can embrace failure, we can support each other in turning what we once saw as failure into a positive, we can see the learning value when we take time to reflect on the experience. We can motivate each other to do better, to be better, to go after what we want, to find our voice. We can encourage each other to listen to advice we are given but also to listen to our inner voice, to not allow experiences to change the core of who we are but rather to enrich and empower us as women and as a tribe.

Debs, Kate & Kerry

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