Falling Forward Following Failure

During the moments of our tender youth, with wide-eyes and eager mouths, we yearn to experience—experience laughter, experience joy, and experience success. Our minds work in a rhythmic tandem with our hearts. Each beat promotes each movement and each thought, and each thought originates from a place of wonder without logic.

Our world is a blank canvas and the environment around us becomes a colorful pallet from which to paint our stories.

But as we get older, something happens. We begin to deliberately brush timid strokes into our world, blended together from hues of uncertainty and inexperience. And while these strokes contain fragments of beauty, each particle is a bleak representation of the genius within us. Instead, those strokes—the most genius ones—are the unapologetic, bold strokes that come from a place of wonder without regret, wonder without logic.

A few years ago, I decided to make a bold decision—to switch career paths—despite a fearsome battle between my mind and my heart. My heart felt full as I stepped forward into new territory, eager to create new successes. Just one year after having made that decision, I lost my job. It took every ounce of faith I had within my heart to convince myself that I had not failed the most important person in my life: myself.

We all experience these moments, whether at school, work, or home, when a decision does not yield the result we originally expected to occur. We also often view these results as mistakes—which is actually our biggest mistake of all.

Last week, I had the incredible opportunity to be surrounded by an empowering group of women—along with several men—at the PA Conference for Women in Philadelphia, PA. Shonda Rhimes, writer and creator of Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy, and one of the keynote speakers at the event, said something that resonated within my soul:

“How we name something dictates how we deal with it, and we often let our fear dictate what those names will be.”

This brings me back to the word “mistake.” In its proper context, it simply means a misstep. But in society, we are unconsciously trained to believe that mistakes are much more than a misstep. We are led to believe that a mistake is a representation of a larger fault—a fault within ourselves, within our character. This is what often causes us to make those timid brushstrokes, creating safe and sometimes lengthy pathways to success.

I vividly remember the moments after I had lost my job. Shortly after walking through the door and having been greeted with a hug from my significant other, I stepped away from that moment to state to him—and really to myself—that I did not want pity. I wanted to move forward. I wanted to decide on my next bold move—wherever that might be or might take us. This experience would not define me. I would not allow it, no matter the perception or stigma associated with it.

“The more you summon the courage to do the thing you fear,” Shonda said, “the more you belong.” I would be lying if I told you that I had no fear as I pressed forward. Interview after interview, I began to believe in myself again. I solidified confidence in my ability to make a positive difference, and interviewers felt that confidence as something tangible. When I was faced with decisions about what I could do next in my career, I dreamt big, I dreamt unapologetically, and I dreamt bold. I went against the grain and chose job opportunities that best matched who I am and the impact I want to make in the world. The result? Happiness and, therefore, success.

As you read this article, take a second to reflect on a moment when you made a decision based on fear. What was the result? Did you feel fully satisfied with your decision?

Now, reflect on those moments when you made a decision in spite of fear.

I guarantee you that your decisions made in spite of fear have created the most beautiful environments for success in your life. And if they have not, dream bigger and dream unapologetically. You are the artist of your life. Paint with bold strokes of genius from a place of wonder without logic. Create and embrace your own definition of success and you will simultaneously be creating happiness.

Nicole is a professional hybrid who works within the social work and entrepreneurial fields. She believes in the binary importance of self-awareness and the growth mindset. Her main goal in life is to make a positive, lasting impact in at least one person’s day, every day. In her spare time, you can find her practicing her sarcasm and Italian hand gestures for the next conversational comedian opportunity.

Self-Served, Self-Love: Investing in Yourself First

As my boyfriend and I were playing tennis, an older gentleman no taller than me (a pleasant 5’2”) approached the gate of the court, offering to give us a few tips and tricks for seamless swings with a relaxed, Jamaican tone. Before we could graciously accept, he was through the gate and had my racket in his hand. We intently listened to his pointers and watched his demonstrations—I particularly enjoyed that he did not believe the continental grip made a world of a difference—and then I offered the gentleman my business card. I urged him to reach out should he ever want to meet-up to volley for a few rounds or set up a doubles match.

Much like a player will shift their spot on the court to receive a serve, so we shifted our perspective as the conversation transferred to a more philosophical undertone. With a steady wisdom in his stance and voice, he replied, “I will most likely not call you, yet I am here most of the time. If I see you again, we will play.” He explained that he did not spend much time on his phone—especially since he retired from his job in New York. He was here, closer to family, to enjoy his time.

“Let me share something with you,” he smiled, “I treat you just like I would treat him [gesturing toward my boyfriend with an open palm]. I treat him with the same respect I give my wife. I treat my wife with the same respect I give to you. I do not treat one person with more respect than another. I do not have a best friend – I do not believe in that. You should always treat everyone the same, but also remember that those people are not the people who can be your source of happiness. In this world, one of the most important things you can do is to invest in yourself. Only you are in control of your happiness. You cannot give your focus to others if you have not focused first on yourself.”

My eyes and my cheeks were sharing a smile as I glanced at my boyfriend who wore the same expression on his face. He continued, “When you have a family, you cannot focus on your children before you. There is a reason that first responders give oxygen to parents before the children. It is because the parents cannot help the children if they, as parents, are not okay.” He continued, stating that health and well-being is the most precious gift you have as a person—“we only get one body.” Too many people spend their time focusing on accumulating worldly possessions when those possessions are not what will keep us healthy or happy in this life.

He shared an example, “There is a man who lives near me. Every single day, he is outside washing and waxing his car. The man himself is overweight. That car is not going to save his life someday. Only he has the power to do that. But he chooses to invest his time, every day, in that car instead of himself. A car is something that simply gets you from point A to point B. Once you get to your destination, the car does not follow you.”

He continued a little while longer and left his mark on us before leaving the court.

In a day and age where society is expected to be consistently connected with each other, one of the hardest things to do is build time into the day in order to invest in the most important thing: ourselves. Too often, I notice acquaintances, family, and friends adjust their plans in order to please others—even if that adjustment does not fully accommodate their own needs.

My mission for you today, and every day thereafter, is this: clear your mind of hesitations. Consider yourself first – what do you need to be your best self for you, and then for others today? Have you wanted to indulge in a pizza? Go for it. Have you wanted to try yoga? Sign up for a class this minute. Have you been putting off a book or your education? Set a time during the day to read 20 pages, or set-up a phone call with your local university. Do you feel like you are always focused on everyone else but yourself? Wake up earlier, stay up later, or talk to your loved ones about this struggle. No matter if you are an acquaintance, stranger, friend or family, we all need to support each other in the adventure to support ourselves.

“Self-care is not selfish. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.” – Eleanor Brown



Nicole is a professional hybrid who works within the social work and entrepreneurial fields. She believes in the binary importance of self-awareness and the growth mindset. Her main goal in life is to make a positive, lasting impact in at least one person’s day, every day. In her spare time, you can find her practicing her sarcasm and Italian hand gestures for the next conversational comedian opportunity.

Five Steps to Turn Your Job Loss into Job Opportunities

“We are reorganizing and unfortunately, we have to let you go.”

“We truly appreciate everything you have done for our company, but it is time for us to go a different direction.”

No matter how it is presented to you, you hear: you’re fired. Shortly thereafter, a sinking feeling happens in your gut—much worse than dropping an ice cream cone on a blistering summer day or forgetting to write that mortgage check for the month.

Finances and family flock to the forefront of your vision, and then self-doubt creeps into your frame of thought. It clutters the frame with words like “failure” and “irresponsible,” clouding your ability to see the bigger picture: you are still you and you are still valuable.

Oftentimes, we allow ourselves to consider the negative before we begin tallying the positives. For instance, the word “unemployed” usually takes on a negative connotation, like lazy or undedicated. According to Merriam-Webster.com, the top definition of unemployed (adj.) is “not being used.” Quite literally, your talents are not being used. That is all. You are still responsible. You have still enjoyed success. Your hard work was not all for naught.

If you find yourself unemployed, you must set your focus on yourself: What can I do? What should I do? Here are my top five answers to those questions—

1. Forgive Yourself & the Company for Your Job Loss

The most important thing you can do is to forgive yourself. This is undoubtedly one of the hardest tasks because your mind is already saying, “I should have…” and “I wish I…” Learn from this experience and then leave it behind you. It is important to view this time as an option to create a new opportunity. Additionally, you must forgive your company. Yes—the ones who just let you go. This forgiveness is within and will give you peace as you set your sites onto greener pastures because numerous businesses out there are seeking a professional like you.

2. Surround Yourself with Positive People

Whether you were employed for 20 years or two years, job loss can feel like a sudden, traumatic experience. It is of the utmost importance that you surround yourself with positivity, beginning with the people in your inner most circle of friends or family. These people will be your rock…your source of sanity and strength in between your job search. Be there for them just as much as you need them to be there for you.

3. Dedicate Yourself to Practicing a Growth Mindset

Job searching for eight hours a day is unhealthy. Build a daily schedule that includes time for you to focus on yourself. Stanford University’s Dr. Carol Dweck wrote an incredible book titled Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. It enlightens readers about two mindsets, the fixed mindset (the inability to see the future past current barriers) and the growth mindset (the ability to create a future despite barriers or a clear path), and then educates readers about how to practice the growth mindset throughout their business, home and educational lives. This book is a game-changer. You can purchase it here. (Dweck, 24 & 25.)

4. Stay Focused on the “Now”

One of the biggest mistakes I notice as a Recruiter and Human Resources Generalist turned Job Search Facilitator and Employability Skills Instructor is that the vast majority of professionals or post-graduates do not invest in their continued self-education and volunteer opportunities outside of the workplace. Self-education, such as completing a Microsoft Excel course through GroupOn or Lynda.com, and volunteering once a month (or more while you have time!) for a cause that matters to you not only creates a feeling of accomplishment, but also creates professional interest in you—what diverse knowledge you could bring to the next business.

5. Use Your Resources

Make a list of your current employment resources. This list can range from Facebook and LinkedIn to local professional groups and networking events. Humility is key in this process. Network with recruiters, reach out to LinkedIn Learning content creators and research your desired industry. If you have yet to join LinkedIn, now is the time to join the 500 million users worldwide—and it’s free. There are also resources available to you through your state which can be found on the United States Department of Labor website.

Always remember: Do not allow your job loss to consume you or dictate your future. Opportunity is not about waiting for the right time, it is about creating it on your own time. You are not alone in this journey.

Nicole is a professional hybrid who works within the social work and entrepreneurial fields. She believes in the binary importance of self-awareness and the growth mindset. Her main goal in life is to make a positive, lasting impact in at least one person’s day, every day. In her spare time, you can find her practicing her sarcasm and Italian hand gestures for the next conversational comedian opportunity.