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BRAVE: What I Learned from Failing

“The truth is that falling hurts.  The dare is to keep being brave and feel your way back up.”  Brene Brown, Rising Strong

It might be the fact that I’m in my forties. Or maybe it’s dealing with the lies I have believed for so long and finally giving them the heave ho. Perhaps it’s because I’m tired of being defined by something for over twenty years. One failure does not a person make. It’s taken way too long for me to understand that. But I kinda do now and maybe that’s why I’m at the point where I can take it apart and dissect it.

All I ever wanted was to be a journalist. Make a long story short. I got into university to study journalism and graduated with an english degree. It wasn’t because I didn’t bust my butt to get good grades either. I did. I was so close. To say the disappointment was deep and cutting is an understatement.

Gr. 4.  I knew where I wanted to go!
Gr. 4. I knew where I wanted to go!

The day I graduated from Carleton University with an English degree instead of a Journalism Degree was bitter. I remember handing my degree over to my parents after the ceremony, telling them I didn’t want it. All it symbolized to me was one thing: FAILURE. Four years of nothing. That’s what I thought.


That defeat defined me for a very long time. It didn’t help that life circumstances added to the lie I was believing. But as I sit and look at it now, two decades later, I realize that I actually learned a lot from it. And if I could, this is what I would tell my much younger self but more importantly, what I am learning to tell myself, today.


1.  Don’t let a piece of paper or the absence of one, tell you what you can and can’t do. This was reiterated for me recently as I was listening to Michael Hyatt interview one of his friends for the Impact & Influence Summit. For far too long, two pieces of paper have kept me from doing things I love. It’s true that I have not gotten jobs because I didn’t have a degree in journalism. I can’t do some dance training because I don’t have a certificate in teaching dance. On the other hand, I have used those as an excuse to not do something rather than get creative and find a new way.


2.  Take risks. I did and it didn’t work out. I went after a childhood dream, far away from my small town home and family. After  it didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to, I wouldn’t take any more risks when it came to writing and employment. Today, I would tell my younger self to get back up – I was brave once. Do it again. Risk. Repeat.

3.  Don’t be afraid of failure. Mistakes happen. Lick your wounds. But get back up and try again. Learn. Move forward. Don’t sit paralyzed. Don’t let the failure be a negative in your life. Use it to move to a positive outcome. It’s all about mindset.

4.  Talk to lots of people about what they do for a living. Network. Don’t be afraid. People generally like to tell you what they love to do. The work they do. Ask a lot o questions and people will generally be generous in their answers and with their time. Learn from them.

5.  Don’t be afraid of changing your mind. Maybe this isn’t the path for you. Don’t be legalistic about what is right for your life because you might miss out on something great. Things change. YOU might change and mature and discover some new passion. Or maybe the path is different than you imagined. There is nothing set in stone! Follow that path and see where it goes. It might lead you to your promised land.


6.  Share the journey. Unfortunately in the world of journalism, we were taught to keep things secret because it was such a competitive program. You did not want someone stealing your ideas or story. The writing world was that way for me for a long time. Too many people you couldn’t trust. It’s taken a long time to get over that. I’m glad I have because I have discovered some wonderful people to travel with. I wish I knew that a long time ago.

7.  Let yourself off the hook once in a while. We are our worst task masters. Learn to extend some grace to yourself.

8.  Accept the gifts God has given you and then give them back to Him. It’s called freedom. Then you really can go out and use them to change the world.

9.  Know that you are so much more than what you can do. It’s all about who you are. The people who really love you, don’t care what you do, they just enjoy your presence. That would include God.

10.  Finally as I heard Mark Buchanan say once at a writing conference, “You’re not sick, you’re a writer.” Or whatever that blank is for you. Believe it.

PS: I did eventually get my degree back. It took about ten years. I even hung it up.