Power in Failure


Let me introduce you to a young woman, a daughter of incredibly successful immigrants from China who grew up figure skating competitively.

She worked for years, sacrificing so much for her sport. I mean, we’ve all seen The Cutting Edge, right? This isn’t something you do casually. We know this isn’t just an after school activity if you want to make it to the Olympics. And she did.

That was The Goal.

Only, when push came to shove, she and her pairs partner failed to make the Olympics cut.

Can you imagine the heartbreak?

But since her ice skating career didn’t go the way she wanted, she had to step back and figure out what the next dream was.

And why not keep dreaming? Why settle?

None of that took away from her wins or accolades or hard-work, but it did mean that she was not the Olympic Figure Skater she’d dreamed and worked and earned accolades and recognitions to become.

She failed at hitting that goal.

I’m sure there was frustration, disappointment, and hurt because…again, we’ve all seen The Cutting Edge. No one does that much work to just be like “You know what? Naaaaaah.”

But she didn’t just want a job – she’d been working toward a PASSION for so long that a job, any job just wouldn’t do it.

Knowing that, she said the only thing she loved as much as skating was the costumes…so fashion it is! This led her to a job at Vogue and then on to designing some years later for Ralph Lauren.

Imagine just for a moment all she learned about hard work, diligence, practice, getting up when you fall (or fail), getting ranked publicly for goodness sakes! The lessons are as powerful as the loss.

She has called her “failure” a “happy accident” – not negating the loss or the gain of her journey, but recognizing and respecting both.

And so, she then went on to be one of the most famous designers in the world, designing not only figuring skating costumes that changed the entire look of the sport, but red carpet looks and wedding dresses that we’d all know at a glance…and then going on to make “affordable, approachable” clothing with a department store partner.

Have you guessed who this failure is yet?


Yup. One of the most recognizable designers of her generation had a dream that didn’t involve designing anything at all.

Imagine how different the entire world would look if Vera Wang hadn’t failed.

And so, I’d like to welcome you to my Failure is Awesome… I mean, The Power in Failure series where we’re going to talk about why we shouldn’t dismiss or ignore failure and how stinking awesome failing can be.

And yes, I will be talking about my move out of full-time writing in here still.

I hope you’ll join me!



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  1. Great post, Bria. I know I’ll be following this space, because seeing failure as something powerful and transformative requires forgiving yourself for falling short of the goal. I’m here for it! This is a beautiful intro.

    • Bria Quinlan says

      Thanks, Cheri.

      This is definitely the direction I want to go and feel like we don’t talk about enough. We’ve become a culture of WINNING!!!! or FAIL!!!! and let’s be honest, life is really in between those for the most part and still a joyful thing.

      • I’ve spent nearly 3 years beating myself up for not retaining my productivity levels in my chosen career path. It wasn’t until I forgave myself for the fact that sometimes life DOES intervene (despite all the folks who wrote themselves out of depression, cancer, domestic violence, etc.) The truth is: I couldn’t. My mother needed me. My MIL needed me. My family needed me. And, moreover, I wanted to be there for them. I got the chance to travel as I never thought I would. All of this took me away from writing. And you know what? I’m okay with moving the deadlines back and knowing I lost ground in the marketplace. Writing is one part of my life, not all of it. It wasn’t until I let go of past choices and regrets that I felt able to move forward again from where I was now. I will make the progress I’m meant to make, and it is from where I left off… not in comparison to others. I wish you well in your next steps and in the painting. 🙂

  2. I never knew that about Vera Wang. Interest post. I come at it from the other side – full-time day job and caretaker and trying to get the writing career off the ground. I have been talking to my sister and nephew about this – what failure looks and feels like and forgiving yourself when you don’t meet a goal.

    I look forward to reading the next post.

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