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Learning From Failure and Success

Diana Stegall, CSP, CFPS, ARM, SMS, CPCU, 2019-20 ASSP President
Sep 01, 2019

As Society activities shift into high gear, I have been reflecting on additional takeaways from Safety 2019. In closing out the conference, Olympic champion Scott Hamilton reminded us that falling is a normal occurrence for figure skaters. It is how you respond to those falls that makes the difference.

I thought about his comments as they relate to our role as safety professionals and how we tend to focus on our perceived failures. We also often let others define us based on those failures instead of seeing those experiences as opportunities to learn.

I was further reminded of this while watching Captain Marvel on the flight back from New Orleans. In the movie, the heroine has experienced memories only related to failures (in some cases literally falling). Then, toward the end of the movie, her true memory is restored and she realizes that she persevered and succeeded after each failure. As Nelson Mandela said, “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”

Our tendency to let failure define us can come through in our volunteer roles as well. Let me share this personal example. When I was president of the Triad Chapter, our monthly meetings were well attended, typically drawing more than 20 people. Imagine my dismay when our regional vice president came to a meeting near the end of our chapter year and only 11 people showed up.

I was embarrassed and wondered what I could have done differently. Thankfully, I was able to reframe my thinking and view this as a learning experience. And it made me more eager to take on roles in which I could share what I learned to help other leaders of ASSP member communities see similar outcomes through a different lens.

While at Safety 2019, I talked to members who want to be more involved but feel that they do not have the right skills or knowledge to take on a certain position. If you want to be more involved in ASSP, I encourage you to visit our elections page to read about our currently open positions. I am confident you will find something that fits your skills and knowledge or presents an opportunity for you to learn and grow.

Other members I spoke with said they felt someone else was better suited for or “more deserving” of a volunteer leader role. Marianne Williamson addresses this notion in her 1992 book, A Return to Love:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?” Actually, who are you not to be? . . . Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine. . . . It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we subconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

I encourage you to consider how you might reframe failures and how you might differently define and embrace your successes. Try to treat situations where things do not go as planned as the learning experiences they are and use that information to be a stronger you. Do not be afraid of new challenges. Tackling them is how we grow and experience success as individuals, safety professionals and leaders.

The ASSP board, our councils and the leaders of all your member communities plan and execute initiatives each Society year to ensure that we are addressing your needs. We may stumble in our efforts at times, but I assure you we will rise each time we fall, and we will always seek ways to turn those circumstances into new opportunities.

As this month unfolds, try to take a new view of something that does not go as expected. And be sure to practice allowing yourself to shine.

Michael Coleman
In her President's Message Diana hit on a couple of leadership points with which I identify. 1) “And it made me more eager to take on roles in which I could share what I learned to help other leaders of ASSP member communities...” Sharing my knowledge is one reason I remain active in ASSP leadership roles. 2) Diana also shared that some members told her that other members were better suited for leadership roles than they. I too have heard this reasoning for not volunteering. When I took on my first ASSP leadership role (Chapter President) I felt unqualified. However I received help from other ASSP leaders that assured my success in each of my leadership roles. If you have not volunteered for leadership, I encourage you to take the plunge.  The rewards are immense.


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