Recovering From Failure and the Seeds of Success

When I was 23, I began a part-time job as an aerobics instructor at a local health club. I was so excited for my first day, my very own class. To this day I am grateful to some initial failure and the lessons I learned.

Even though I had taken a lot of classes at the gym, I had never taught one. And really, how hard could it be?

I dressed the part of a professional instructor – leopard spandex, black leg warmers, and a matching headband (it was the 80’s after all). I was geared up and ready to go.

Failure and the lessons of life

The music was pumping, the energy was high, and members were ready to experience the talent, skill and enthusiasm of the club’s newest instructor. Unfortunately, it was a fiasco. I couldn’t count to stay on the beat of the music. My transition between routines was abysmal.

By the end of the class, the forty-five members that I started out with had dwindled to four. They HATED me. They not only stormed out of the class, they vehemently complained about my utter lack of skill to the front desk. I felt like an absolute failure. I wanted to hide my head in shame and never be seen in the club again.

You can QUIT or you can try again

Fortunately, I decided not to quit. Instead, I practised my choreography; I took classes from other instructors and worked on getting my routines down. It started getting a little easier.

Over the next several weeks, fewer participants stomped out of my class. Some of them began to compliment me and encourage me to keep going. Over time, my following grew and became fiercely loyal. I took additional classes and became certified in a variety of workouts. I made a lot of friends and developed a few life-long relationships.

One of my members took my class faithfully for my entire twenty-six-year tenure. I worked at the gym right up until the day they padlocked their doors forever.

Better to fail than to have never tried

What if I had stopped after that first huge failure? Lots of things – I wouldn’t have developed the deep friendships I made. I would not have had my best friend for more than 20 years. I would have missed the fun and fitness my career brought me. Most of all, I would not have met my amazing husband, Scott. Everything happens for a reason.

Although my initial failure was mortifying, sticking with it paid off in a variety of ways. Consider your greatest failure – whether it happened ten years ago or ten weeks ago. What benefits did you receive as a result of that “failure?”

Chances are good that without that misstep, your life would be a lot different than it is today. It never feels good at the time, but time really does heal all wounds.

Take a moment today and celebrate your greatest failure. You’ll find a surprising number of great things that happened as a result of this event.


  • Lisa Ryan

    Lisa Ryan is the Chief Appreciation Strategist with Grategy, a company founded on the principles of leveraging the power of gratitude in business and in life. Utilizing 20+ years of sales, marketing, and training experience, As an employee engagement keynote speaker, Lisa helps companies keep their best customers and top talent from becoming someone else's. She does this by training individuals, teams and organizations the importance of appreciation in creating stronger relationships, and becoming healthier, happier and having a lot more fun in life. Lisa is the author of six books, including: "The Upside of Down Times: Discovering the Power of Gratitude," "Express Gratitude, Experience Good: A Daily Gratitude Journal," "From Afraid to Speak to Paid to Speak: How Overcoming Public Speaking Anxiety Boosts Your Confidence and Career," and "With Excellence." She is featured in two movies: the award-winning "The Keeper of the Keys" with Jack Canfield (Chicken Soup for the Soul), John Gray (Men are From Mars/Women are From Venus), and Marci Shimoff (Happy for No Reason and "The Gratitude Experiment" with Bob Proctor, Dr. John DeMartini and Mary Morrissey. Ryan Lisa