We need to embrace our failures

When doing scientific research, we expect to fail. In fact, we write the likelihood of negative findings into our protocols and plans. We expect things to not always work as we think they might, and we accept that we may not prove what we set out to prove.

In the scientific community, we depend on complete transparency when we fail. We depend on it to advance science, to help people, and to find the best treatments and drug therapies. We publish our failures, and we learn from them.

We don’t get upset when we fail in research. We see it as equally important to figure out what doesn’t work as what does. We reevaluate and move forward.

Wouldn’t it be nice if failure in life was similar?

We have this unrealistic expectation that we won’t fail. We think that we shouldn’t ever fail, so we stay in our comfort zone where we know we won’t.

And when we are #braveenough to try something new, difficult, or risky, and we happen to fail, we stop.

We look around us … did anyone see us fail?

We feel ashamed, and we regret trying.  We beat ourselves up.

It’s bananas.

Truly. Bananas.

Instead of seeing our failure as a necessary step in our growth process, we sulk like every wrong turn is a major snafu. Instead of embracing our failure as a lesson that will bring us closer to what will work, we give up. We ease back into the comfort zone, and we stop innovating, challenging, creating, and advancing.

We settle.

We listen to the naysayers. Some people love to see others fail.

Can you imagine if every scientist tried one trial, one experiment, and when it failed, gave up?  Or better yet, failed, and didn’t share the failure? We share failures all the time in the scientific community; we depend on learning from other’s failures.

If we didn’t expect to fail, we wouldn’t have electricity or computers or cars. We wouldn’t have immunizations or life-saving antibiotics.

The older I get, the more I embrace my failures. The more I expect to fail, and I’ve learned something important … I need to share my failures. Sharing my failures with others is helpful. Not only do I get to hear advice that may help me not make the same mistake again, but it also helps validate others and encourages them not to quit the task at hand.

Here’s the thing: When we share our failures, we build resiliency.

In ourselves, and in others.

When we are transparent with our failures, we are better mentors, teachers, and colleagues. We also become more encouraged and emboldened to try again.

If you are an innovator, or a mover and a shaker, if you are a creator, a leader, or even if you are the leading expert in whatever you do, you are going to fail.

Expect it. Share it. And then keep going.



Sasha K. Shillcutt, MD, MS, FASE is an Associate Professor and Vice Chair in the Department of Anesthesiology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC). She underwent her residency in Anesthesiology at UNMC and completed an Executive Fellowship in Perioperative Echocardiography at the University of Utah Medical Center. She is a board certified Anesthesiologist and holds national leadership positions in several organizations. Sasha is a wife, mother, national educator, writer, and speaker. In 2016, Sasha was awarded the national American Medical Associations Women Physician’s Inspiring Physician Award by her peers. Sasha’s greatest passion is encouraging others to achieve personal greatness in their professional and personal lives and she speaks nationally on resiliency. She believes that it is a privilege to care for all people, no matter what background and blogs at www.becomebraveenough.com. Her proudest role is being mother to her four amazing children and her favorite time is spent on the sideline of many basketball, soccer and dance events cheering on her squad. Her children inspire, energize, and ground her.