Tell me about a time you failed…

Posted by on July 26, 2022

Tell me about a time you failed…

For the past seven years, I’ve had the privilege of running a 10-week professional development program for the Tennessee Education Lottery’s summer interns. Last week we were working on answering standard interview questions, and I asked Jada, an intern, to tell me about a time she failed and what she learned from the experience. Here’s the story she told.

In high school Jada ran track. As a freshman, she set the goal of beating a major rival – a senior.

Jada trained hard all year and had one last chance to beat her rival who was about to graduate. In this final race, Jada ran hard but “failed” by losing the race by .01 seconds.

In the short term, she chose not to label the loss as a failure, especially since she had run her personal best time. In the long term, she chose to keep training, achieving 6th place in the state that year. And she still runs track today in college.

This was a great answer to an interview question, highlighting strengths and accomplishments – while only very lightly referring to a failure (which was really more of a missed goal than a failure!).

But even better than this solid answer was seeing the wisdom of this young woman. Remember, what you learn from your failures is entirely up to you. It’s one of the few things that we have control over: the meaning we make of the events in our lives. You get to choose the label you put on yourself and your experiences. And you get to choose your next actions.

If you choose to speak kindly to yourself and avoid harsh labels, you’ll be more likely to persevere in your efforts when you experience a setback.

Instead of labeling something as a failure, how can you label it as a learning? Where could you shift the meaning you make of the events in your life more positively?

Choose wisely!

p.s. As always, your comments are welcome on this post at