Do You Know How to Fall Forward? by Leslie Vernick

Original Source: Leslie Vernick: Enriching Relationships that Matter Most – email Newsletter, August 2017Subscription information and  more available at


Last year I had a bad fall. A corner of my kitchen floor was covered with large boxes that were delivered but unopened. I was standing in front of the boxes when the doorbell rang. My dog, Gracie, was anxious to protect me and raced to the front door, knocking me over in the process. I lost my balance and fell backwards over the boxes hitting my head on our basement doorknob. Ouch! I was sore and bruised for days. Falling backwards is more dangerous than falling forwards. I hurt my back, tailbone and my head because my arms and knees were unable to cushion my fall. Many years ago when I learned to ice skate the teacher knew falling was inevitable, especially when we tried a new skill like skating on one foot or skating backwards.

Part of our lesson involved learning to fall forward. She said falling forward is much easier on the body and less likely to cause serious injury.

I thought about that idea of falling forward in other areas of life. For example, I have just started to learn to play pickleball, a wildly popular racket sport here at my new home in Arizona. I still hit the ball into the net too often. I often lose my focus, take my eye off the ball and miss my shot.

Pickleball is always played with a partner, which compounds my misery when I fail. I feel embarrassed. I’m tempted to blame myself for losing the game. Sometimes I want to go home because I’m not as good as everyone else I play with. My mindset is like falling backwards. I create more problems for myself by the way I handle my failures. I’m negative. I’m critical of myself and I’m tempted to give up. All of these attitudes will hurt my ability to succeed at learning to play pickleball better.

Recently I attended a professional seminar on a new writing style. All I turned out was junk. I felt discouraged. I told myself I can’t do it this way and was tempted to quit. My mindset is like falling backwards.

Much of life involves learning and trying new things. And new growth always involves some failure. If you don’t learn how to fall forward when you fail, you will short circuit God’s work in your life and rob your own self of your greatest potential.

So here is what changes when you learn to fall forward.

1. When you mess up, which you will, instead of seeing it as a failure, now you see it as an opportunity for growth. “Sure I failed to write well in that moment, but I am learning to write better. Sure I missed a shot in pickleball, but I am learning how to play better and I can’t learn to do that when I’m caught in my fear of failure.”

Falling forward means you will change the way you talk to yourself when you mess up. Instead of negative words, use encouraging words.

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2. Falling forward means you do not quit. Falling hurts, whether you fall forwards or backwards. But falling forwards means you get up, brush yourself, tend to any injuries, and keep going. You don’t stop and you don’t give up because giving up is the ultimate failure. Quitting means failing to learn what you needed to learn from this experience. Persistence doesn’t guarantee you will be the best at what you attempt to do, but you will definitely learn to do it better if you don’t give up and quit.


3. Falling forward means you stop seeing failure as a statement about who you are. Instead, you see failure as simply what happened in the moment. For example, I missed my serve. I hit into the net. My writing wasn’t clean enough. Not, “I can’t do it.”

Michael Jordan said, “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that’s why I succeed.”


In the same way we know that falling forward is better for your physical body, falling forward when you fail or experience a personal setback makes a huge difference on how quickly you recover from your failure.

When you know how to fall forward you start to realize that success is born in the land of failure.

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