How One of My Biggest Failures Taught Me to Fail Forward

I’m going to share with you one of the biggest failures I’ve ever
experienced in my life. Though it’s been a few years, I’m still very
embarrassed when I share this experience. I’m also anxious that people may
think this failure is trivial. But this is just a situation, a few
, when life did not work out the way I wanted to.

Well, here it goes.

One of my biggest failures in my life is:
I tried out for the
University of Washington Cheer Team 3 times, made it to finals every year,
and never made the team.

Yes. I’m one of those girls who never made the cheer team. So let me
tell you how and why I tried out every year and how it taught me how to fail forward.

Freshman Year: 
I did
gymnastics, track, and cross country all through high school so I didn’t have
time to pick up a new sport. So when I graduated from high school, I was
determined to learn how to cheer and dance.

I saw that there were cheer tryouts
my freshman year of college and that the team was hosting open gyms. Even
though I was incredibly nervous and scared, I decided to go.

I shared with the girls at open gym that I had a background in
gymnastics. I could do a standing stuck and a round off back handspring back
tuck. But I didn’t know how to stunt or
cheer dance.
So I learned how to partner stunt a week and half before
tryouts. I learned and struggled through the dance routine. And I tried out, made it to finals, and did
not make the team.

My feedback: Learn how to
partner stunt – I accepted this feedback because I had learned how to partner
stunt just a week and half before tryouts. So I made it a goal that year to
learn how to partner stunt.

Sophomore Year: 
I came back
so much more confident in tryouts my sophomore year. I had continue to partner
stunt with the team and open gyms around the area. I went from barely standing
in hands and extension to learning how to do a full up, cupie, arabesque, and stretch.
I even learned more daring stunts like a rewind and a hand stand to hands. I tried out, made it to finals, and still
didn’t make the team.
I was disheartened and disappointed…

My feedback: Learn how to
dance – I had partner stunting and tumbling locked down. But the team said I
was too stiff when dancing. So I made it a goal that year to become a better
dancer. I took hip hop classes, ballet, and even Pilates for strengthening the following year.

Junior Year
I was on the edge of trying out… I had worked on dancing all
year and I just wasn’t sure if I should do it or not. My friend Jean encouraged
me to just give it one last shot. He
said I had nothing to lose and I deserved to be on the team.
So I tried out
again…made it to finals… and was cut
from the team.

My feedback: I was too old.
I would only have one more year to cheer with the team.

Trying out for the cheer team and not making it is one of my biggest
failures because of the effort I put towards this goal. I had to physically and
mentally prepare each year for try outs, put myself out there, and learn how to
handle rejection. This 4 year experience also taught me how to fail forward.

Here are 4 tips to fail forward:

1. Develop a growth mindset

If you’re trying a new hobby or skill, remind yourself that you’re
learning how to perform or master that skill. You may not be an expert today,
but that doesn’t mean you can’t be an expert tomorrow. I encourage you to practice and embrace a growth mindset.
Here are a few more tips
in embracing a growth mindset.

From my story, I knew I couldn’t master partner stunting or dancing over night. But I knew I could become better the more I practiced and became comfortable in these two spaces. I can’t count the number of times I failed learning how to stunt… but I can remember how I felt after accomplishing some of my favorite stunts. I still remember nailing a stretch to stretch for the first time or learning a full down.

2. Reflect & Accept

Each time I was cut from the team, I took the time to reflect and
accept what had happened. It was painful to accept that my skills, experiences,
were either not up to par or that I just wasn’t what the team was looking for.

But the experience brought me to reflect on what I had been through. I grew so
much in three years; learned a new sport, new skills, and gained some great
friends along the way. Here are a few more reasons why you should take the time to reflect.

3. Maintain a Positive Attitude

It’s easy to surrender to resentment, bitterness, or even hatred. I had
to remind myself that it was the circumstance and situation that didn’t work
out in my favor. I had to remind myself to continue to stay positive because
there are so many other ways I can choose to spend my time.

Because I chose to stay positive, I continued to learn new skills and also stay in shape. I was worried I was going to lose my tumbling abilities in college. But trying out for cheer allowed me to stay flexible and continue to tumble.

If you are looking
for some ways to maintain a positive attitude, read this.

4. Ask Yourself: What’s next? How do I spend my time instead?

One of the reasons why I wanted to be on the cheer team was because I wanted to feel more a part of my school.
I wanted a chance to lead the student body on the field with football cheers
and dances. I wanted to be in a position to represent my school.

Since I didn’t make the team, I
sought out to get involved with UW in other ways.
I joined UW Leaders, volunteered
for one of the ASUW political campaigns, ran TEDxUofW, and the Victoria’s
Secret PINK team.

If I couldn’t lead my school on the field, I ensured I led
the student body to new ideas with TEDx and yoga parties with Victoria’s Secret
PINK. I look back and wouldn’t trade my experiences for the world. I realized
that everything works out the way it needs to work out. 

This videos is from a few years ago, but here’s how I used to spend some of my Friday nights 🙂
Thank you again to my friend Jean who was my main partner for partner stunting all through college!

When have you failed in life? And what did you learn from
it? How have you learned how to fail forward?

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Thank you for reading!


This post was made in collaboration with American Eagle
Photos: Holly Phan


  1. June 13, 2017 / 11:36 pm

    What I love about this story is that everything you did is only going to benefit you into the future and (hopefully) you enjoyed the process. I love the tips in this post – it's so true that everything works out the way it is meant to be.
    Michelle @ The Unfinished Bookshelf

  2. June 14, 2017 / 3:34 pm

    Your dedication is so inspiring! Thanks for sharing this story. It really resonates 🙂

  3. June 14, 2017 / 3:41 pm

    I loved this story as well, sorry you did not make it but sounds like you used it as a learning exp and everything works out how its supposed to , you look gorgeous in that ouffit!1


  4. June 14, 2017 / 5:10 pm

    Your insights both in hindsight and how to move forward are so lovely to read. I love coming back to your blog every week because of your positive attitude. Many people would've stopped after tryout #1, but your attitude and constant drive to want to learn and improve on yourself – for YOURSELF – is incredibly inspiring.


  5. June 19, 2017 / 5:46 pm

    I love how you maintain a positive attitude, and keep trying every time. It's so important that we accept failure, and learn from it.

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