Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

By Khalilah Starks

If I had to do it all over again, I would…

If I could turn back the hands of time, I would…

Ahhh, the wicked sound of regret. I’m sure that we all could finish those sentences with things that we would have done differently if we had known what we know now. As my mom always says, “Hindsight is 20/20.” As I glance over my own career, there are definitely some decisions that I wouldn’t have made with my current wisdom. I definitely would have done a few things differently. However, those admittedly poor decisions, failures and mistakes served a purpose. It created an opportunity for me to learn, grow and get better. Let’s be real though…the immediate feeling of failure or that moment when you realize you made a poor decision really, really sucks.

It’s inevitable though. At some point, you will fail, make a bad decision, use poor judgment or simply make a mistake. And, when you do, here are 6 steps to make a sweet comeback:

1. Clean It Up Immediately. If you spill a glass of milk on the floor, the first thing that you do is grab paper towels or a mop to clean it up. You don’t walk away from it. That’s avoidance. The first order of business is creating a plan to fix or address whatever has resulted due to your failure or error in judgment. Determine what resources you need to address the problem and take immediate action.

2. Apologize. “Six words – I admit I made a mistake.” My great-grandfather gave me a “Secrets to Success” plaque that included that quote as a graduation gift many years ago. From time to time, I look at it and remind myself that I’m only human and I will make mistakes. But, what’s most important is taking full accountability for those mistakes. Sincere accountability. The apology may or may not be appreciated. But, it’s not about them. It’s about you accepting responsibility which is a critical trait for any leader. Release the burden of trying to explain or justify your error and sincerely say, “I admit I made a mistake.” It’s quite liberating!

3. Get the Lesson. No matter how bad you screwed up, there will always be another opportunity to redeem yourself. It may not be immediate. But, you will eventually have an opportunity to apply the lesson that you learn. So, stop and ask yourself what have you learned. What would you do differently if given another opportunity? There’s a huge lesson from every failure that can take you a step closer to massive success.

4. Make Peace. Whether you made the mistake 5 minutes ago or 5 years ago, it’s in the past. So, leave it there. What’s done is done. There’s nothing that you can do about it. Forgive yourself and move on. The best thing to do is move forward and focus on how you’ll do better next time. There’s this tendency to mentally play failures over and over again. I call it the mental beat down. This serves absolutely no purpose but to punish yourself for something that you can’t change.

5. Try Again. When babies fall, we encourage them to get right back up and try again. So, get back up, brush yourself off and look for new opportunities to try again. Failure is not defeat. It’s an opportunity to learn and readjust in order to ensure future success. Failure can work for you or against you – it’s your choice. Will you allow it to make you better or will you allow it to defeat you? The choice is yours.

6. Inspire Others. Once you’ve failed and survived (and, you will survive), it’s your turn to pay it forward. It’s your turn to encourage the next person who fails or makes a poor decision. It’s your turn to share the wisdom that you gained from your failure to help someone avoid those same pitfalls. This is an opportunity for you to be compassionate when others make mistakes because you were once in their shoes.

As we close out 2015 and begin the new year, make peace with your failures and let them catapult you into a stratosphere of massive success in 2016! The only people in this world who never fail, are those who never try! Keep pushing and trying in 2016!!