Failing Forward: How To Turn Perceived Failure Into Success
Learning how to fail is something seldom taught. From adolescent years, to teenage years, through early adulthood, humans are taught how to succeed, how to achieve goals, and how to
work hard until what your desire is yours.
When I was 22 years old, fresh out of college, I thought I had failed so badly that the vision for my life would have to be completely rewritten. I had just taken my first attempt at the Nursing Licensure Board Exam (NCLEX), and was told I had failed.
Normally, failing a test is not something I would have a mental breakdown over---there have been many exams that I haven't done so hot on, retaken, and passed. This one was different. This one I paid close to $200 to be able to take, never mind paying for prep materials and classes. This one had my dream job riding on it---I already was guaranteed a NICU Nurse position contingent upon passing. This one was the result of a 50k tuition bill that confirmed I had spent four years learning everything I needed to know about the profession to be able to
pass, and yet--I didn't.
What I learned in the process of taking the boards a total of four times (yes, four) before passing, was how to fail forward. How to control the narrative so that you never actually have "failed", but in reality have accessed every part of you that is necessary to succeed. It is okay to have a vision for yourself and have it completely changed. It is okay to feel vulnerable and lost and not know what to do next. No one told me it was okay.
I am a first-generation college student and the daughter of an immigrant, so any experience I have gone through is completely my own; I had to learn that failure is power and teaches you
more lessons that success ever can.
In today’s world of social media relevancy and status, it can be difficult to not feel the urge to compare yourself to other people--especially for young women. Because there is often a societal narrative of women competing with each other, pressures of wanting to be the best, smartest, most experienced, outweighs the normalcy and transparency of failure before success. I am here to tell you what most people don’t--the only way you can succeed is to fail.
Once I had failed my NCLEX exam for the third time, I knew something wasn’t working. My outlook on “failing” was weighing me down and causing more internalized guilt, shame, and embarrassment than was fair. It was then that I decided to embrace the journey--and myself--wholly and fully. I began leaning into other passions while navigating a fourth attempt,
and that’s when everything changed.
Not only did I pass and become a Registered Nurse, I also got to experience incredible opportunities in the process: Forbes Fellow, TEDx Speaker, National Service Award Winner. All
of which would not have been possible if life had worked out as originally planned. This is how you Fail Forward.
My name is Raquél Pérez, and I am a Neonatal ICU Nurse, Public Speaker, and National Service Advocate. For insight into my public speaking, please reference my TEDX talk:
Social links: @nurseraquellynn (instagram) @NurseRaquelLynn (twitter).