Fruitful Failures: Harvesting Nuggets of Knowledge from Disappointment

July 20, 2021

Nneka McGee

Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction


Each spring, nature provides a wonderful representation of what it means to renew. When I look at blooming tulips, flowering cherry blossom trees and land changing from shades of brown to an expansion of colors, I am reminded of the transformative power of failure.

For many of us, there is nothing we fear more than failure. The inability to achieve a goal, meet a deadline or maintain expectations can have devastating effects. Our confidence in our ability to succeed can drift like falling leaves in autumn. Is there a way for us to view failure as a foundation to bloom instead of a place to break? I think there is — here’s how you can start.

Reflect first

One key to rising from failure is to understand the factors that led to it. Spend time in a quiet place and use your preferred method of journaling – written or verbal – to think through the circumstances that led to your disappointment. Don’t be afraid to confront the realities of your failure and the impact it can have on how you move forward.

Seek support

After you reflect, seek out people who can help you reach your goals. Support can come from many places, including family, friends, colleagues and mentors. American College of Education assigns each student a Student Success Coach to help them navigate through school-related challenges. Remember that none of us have to face failure alone.

Stay focused

Prepare to face barriers as you strive to reach your goal and know that some of those barriers can lead to failure. But staying focused on your overarching goal will help you avoid making that failure “final.” To stay focused, try the following:

  1. Keep a written or verbal journal.
  2. Create an accomplishments list that includes all the successful small steps you have taken to reach your big goal.
  3. Design a vision board and display it in a visible location.
  4. Set regular meetings with your support network to check in with people who can help you reach your goals.

Like the seasons, failure is a temporary state. It can delay you, deny you or inspire you. Like many others, I have failed more times than I have succeeded and those failures have been the cornerstone of my success. Too often, we are hesitant to share what it means to fail because its repercussions can leave us exposed and vulnerable. If we begin to view failure as a point of possibilities, we can begin to rise from the shadows of disappointment and spread the petals of future success.

Grow into a more resilient professional at American College of Education. Explore our fully online certificate programs and master’s degree programs.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of American College of Education.
Nneka McGee
Nneka McGee, Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction

Dr. Nneka J. McGee is an innovative educator, researcher and advocate dedicated to creating and promoting pathways that provide students access and opportunities to navigate a future driven by automation and artificial intelligence. Prior to earning her Ed.D. at American College of Education, Nneka obtained a bachelor’s degree in English, a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction and a juris doctorate. As part of her doctoral studies, she researched the experiences of K-12 teachers implementing or planning to implement artificial intelligence in classroom learning environments. She is a sought-after speaker on artificial intelligence in education and has shared her work as a panelist or presenter at national, state, regional and local conferences. Nneka is a proud member of HAKing Innovation’s Board of Directors, a non-profit, social impact organization on a mission to create a community of technical talent by exposing students to STEM experiences. She also serves as an AI practitioner advisory board member for the Engage AI Institute and was selected as an EdSAFE AI Alliance Fellow.

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