EMS failures: 5 steps for accepting them and moving on

Failure is not your enemy, but if you believe it is that is what you will become as an EMS leader


As a young boy in New York City I accidently used the F-word. My Italian mother heard me and came running outside screaming at me at the top of her lungs. "I cannot believe what I just heard," she yelled.

"Where did you learn such a horrible word?"

"You are so much better than that! In this family no one has ever used that word."

I wanted to crawl under a rock and get away from this horrible embarrassment.

Now pointing her finger at me my mother said, "Failure is the worst F-word ever used to describe us or our lack of accomplishments. If you say it, and truly believe you’re a failure, that’s what you will become." 

She concluded by saying, "Failure is never an option."

Then she kissed me and slapped the back of my head. At this early age, I just experienced some tough love.

Failure comes and goes
Over my professional career failure has come and gone. People I’ve worked with used the F-word, and some believed the F-word described them. Those people focused more on their shortcomings and transgressions and, as that occurred, they subconsciously believed it was true.

There are times we try to break out of failure mode to be successful or try something new, something outside our comfort zone. But, because we trained our subconscious to believe we can never be successful, that little voice in our head begins to laugh at us, holds us back, and continues to defeat us. The only thing this allows is for you to continue living in the status quo.

Don’t give failure the power
It's time to forget your mistakes, learn from them, and forgive yourself for whatever’s in the past.

How many mistakes have you made in your personal and professional career? If you are like me, you have made countless errors and mistakes. It seems that somewhere along the line, there was a lesson that mistakes are bad, errors cannot be forgiven, and failed endeavors come with a life sentence in solitary confinement. So for every regret or screw up we feel guilty.

If you allow that guilt to build, you end up carrying that weight around for years. It now affects your work, your credibility, your leadership ability and maybe even your personal life. Continually beating yourself up with negative thoughts locks you up in the solitary confinement of your mind.

How much energy do you spend on past mistakes? Imagine how much more successful you could be if you took that same energy and focused it forward. It is now time to say, and believe the F-word is not bad at all. It is not about the falling down that’s the failure. The failure is in not getting up and trying again.

We all make mistakes
Experience comes from mistakes, and mistakes come from a lack of experience. Without mistakes and failures some of the best inventions would have never been developed. Here are five steps to accept failures and move forward from them:

1. Understand that failure is not personal
For some reason, when errors are made we want to personally take the blame. Separate the failure from your identity. Just because something was not successful does not mean you are to blame. When you decide to focus the blame on yourself you begin to erode your self-esteem and confidence.

2. Learn from mistakes
The only thing that is truly personal is the mistakes you make. Analyze what occurred, determine what went wrong, and reflect on how the mistake could have been avoided. As a leader, your analysis and reflection becomes the experience you continually share.

3. Let it go
When you obsess over a failure you are hampered from moving on, which further compounds the issue. What happened in the past is over and cannot be changed. Leave the guilt, negative thoughts and mistakes behind you to move on to the future.

4. Don’t be judged
Someone’s opinion of you does not have to become your reality. When you allow other people’s opinions to influence who you are as a person, you will now begin the transformation to becoming who others expect you to be, rather than who you want to become.

5. Embrace being human
Mistakes happen, failure occurs, and there needs to be an acceptance that this is part of living life. Some of the great success stories that inspire are steeped in failure. Michael Jordan, one of the greatest basketball players ever, approached failure by saying, "I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."

As leaders and people instead of getting caught up in the quicksand of distress, allow that distress to become a lesson learned, and teaching moments for all you lead. What failure in your career taught you the best leadership lesson? Please share below so we can all experience and learn.  

Recommended for you

Join the discussion

Get Paramedic Chief in your inbox

Thanks! You've been successfully signed up for the Paramedic Chief Newsletter

Copyright © 2020 EMS1. All rights reserved.