Fail Forward

Fail Forward

Learning Lessons from Mistakes

One day, I was standing on a stool to reach something in an upper cabinet. Usually, this would be no big deal because the stool I typically stand on is stationary. That day, however, I chose to grab a “wiggly” stool from under our kitchen island instead, which ended catastrophically in a terrible fall. Let me share with you how I took this tragic morning and taught my children to fail forward, as I have learned to do in life and through flying.

To properly orient you in the scene, let me explain the rest of the story. I was mid-renovation of our RV and I had a pile of random things (such as paint cans and supplies) right in front of an upper cabinet I needed to get into. In order to avoid moving the entire pile, I decided I would just use the stool under the island because those stools swing out and would clear the pile where I would typically put my usual stool. Not thinking twice about my decision, I hopped up on the wiggly stool and opened the cabinet to grab the items I needed. As I was closing the cabinet, I moved just enough to lose balance. The stool simultaneously swung out from beneath me and I yelped for help as I was falling. My son, who was sitting nearby on the couch, dutifully bounded forward, attempting to catch me, but ended up holding my legs together, which then made me feel like I was under a spell cast from the Harry Potter books. My legs were bound tightly together and I was helplessly falling forward onto the pile of painting supplies. I’m sure it was only a few seconds, but as lay there, pain searing through different parts of my body, I counted each of my breaths. I heard my son saying, “Mommy, are you ok? Mommy, can you get up? Mommy??!” I responded, “I’m not sure if I’m ok, but I am breathing, help me.” I maneuvered and rolled off the paint can my hip landed on and I began to feel hot tears streaming from my eyes. I was ok, just injured. My son helped me get ice packs and take care of me as I recovered.

This situation was not only terrible, but enlightening and helped me realize another area in life where I could help the kiddos learn. We have always encouraged the children to be independent when possible, such as getting their own snack but had not considered teaching them how to care for an injured adult. I talked my son through where the medicine was so he could administer me the appropriate amount to help with pain and inflammation as my body ached with each movement. As I began to come to my senses, I thanked him for taking care of me and said, “I guess gravity got the best of me today. That wiggly stool wasn’t a good choice, huh?” He grinned, not disagreeing with me, but poked fun saying, “We have rules, mom, I guess we need to add that one to the list: no standing on wiggly stools.” He was right, and we did.

In our home, we have the opinion that good and bad things are going to happen and we have to learn from those experiences and fail forward, taking what we learned to make better decisions in the future. A dear friend of mine shared a quote with me that I hold dear to my heart:

“Good judgement comes from experience, which often comes from poor judgement.”


This quote is so true. As we gain experience in the world from things that happen, we also gain (hopefully) better judgement. In aviation, we are always talking about decision making and judgement in related to flying, especially when making a go/no go decision based on the current and forecast weather. We learn from each experience so that we can make safer decisions going forward.

As I picked my pride up and hobbled around, the children and I recounted the events of the morning. I talked with them about the situation, as well as what would be a better choice in the future. We also discussed what we needed to consider if mommy was hurt and could not get up. Since we are not in a stationary house, but traveling fulltime in an RV, calling the typical 911 is not always the best option for us. We talked about who should be notified, where the information needed is, and how to do that. We discussed how to care for a person who falls, as well as how to care for wounds like I got that day.

That day is memorable for multiple reasons. Not only am I more careful about picking proper stools to climb on, I consider the risk involved more than before. I am a relatively young and able person, but I need to remember that as I age, I need to take gravity more seriously. This was also the day that I knew I was destined to share my thoughts with the world. I knew that I have a story to tell, insights to share, and maybe a few lives to change in the process. Maybe one of my metaphors, stories, or experiences will be relatable to someone in the universe. Maybe not. Regardless, it is fun for me to share from my heart, failing forward with each post.

As I share my failures in life, I also try to be an example to my children and encourage them to fail forward too, whether that’s trying again after they fall off a scooter, or learning how to handle emotional distress better. We try to celebrate our failures as much as our successes. I have learned more from failures in life than I have from doing things right. For example, I was working on my Multi-Engine Instructor (MEI) rating and it was the day of my checkride. I knew all the things and I was ready! I passed the first portion of the exam and was on to the second part; flying. As we ventured off on the flight, I was confident and ready. As the flight progressed, the examiner gave me a maneuver to do. I misunderstood the situation and ended up demonstrating the wrong emergency procedure recovery. I was frustrated, but I kept flying the airplane. I had failed that maneuver, but decided to continue with the flight and proceeded to goof up only one other thing on the remaining portion of the flight. While this was an expensive mistake (because two engines burn twice as much fuel and aviation fuel isn’t cheap), it was absolutely life-critical. The mistake I made could mean life or death in the wrong situation. I am glad I made the mistake in a safe training environment because I will NOT make that mistake again. I went back for retraining and passed the exam without any issues the next time. I failed forward, and continue to every darn day.

How do you fail forward?

What is something that has happened in your life that you have learned from?

Signing off,
-BG Barnstormer

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