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  • Mary Foley

[7 Critical Mindset Shifts] Fail Fast, Learn + Move On

What’s your mindset as you figure out what you really want and what really works in this brave new world?

My answer takes me back to being 23 years old. I was a new engineering school graduate with no clue what I wanted to do next or how.

There was only one thing I knew for sure: I didn’t want to be an engineer!

What I desperately wanted was to fast-forward my life two years ahead. Surely by that time I would have figured out my career direction and how life worked.

But there was no fast-forward. Only one step at a time - searching out options, trying some out, making mistakes, and deciding which ones best fit me.

“All life is an experiment,” said Ralph Waldo Emerson. “The more experiments you make the better.”

And since experiments create stories…oh, the stories you and I could tell!

So, my first step was looking for a job to pay the bills. I decided to search around Washington, DC thinking that a metropolitan area offered more options than my small hometown. Fortunately, I quickly found my first job out of college: an $8 an hour call center customer service rep. Whoohoo, my parents were so proud.

What I didn’t realize then was that I was gaining a mindset strategy about uncertainty and change that would serve me the rest of my life:

Fail Fast,


And Move On!

Six words packed with a lot of power.

Now, all these years later, it’s deja vu.

Since the world started dramatically shifting, I’m back to figuring out what’s possible, what’s the best fit, and how to move forward.

But when I remember the mindset mantra that helped me move through so much before, I find solace that it can guide me again. Spoiler alert: Being an engineer is still off the list.

It’s a messy, uncomfortable process. One that no one can fast forward.

But you can make it a whole lot easier if you fail fast, learn, and move on. Here are some thoughts that may help.

Fail Fast

No one likes to fail, but mistakes and slipups are unavoidable, especially with lots of change. So, recognize and admit mistakes quickly when they are smaller. Fix them ASAP. And proactively and authentically communicate with anyone who was impacted by your joyous misstep.

Recently, I messed up on the date and time for several coaching sessions…with the same client. Ugh, embarrassing. As soon as it happened, I figured out my error and personally reached out. Not my admin, not later that day, but right then. We spoke directly and got new dates setup. I think she was happy to see that I’m human.


What if you viewed mistakes as disguised opportunities for improvement? While it still stings. That’s when you’re most motivated to figure out what to do differently so it doesn’t sting again.

Just keep in mind that blame is lame. Quickly blaming someone else for the mistake and not going further doesn’t enable you or anyone to really learn what to do differently. If we all truly dug deep to learn from mistakes, we’d be brilliant!

Trust me, I didn’t feel brilliant by messing up the scheduling with my client. But, as I looked back on our emails, I learned something about her communication style that will help me in future emails.

Move On

In a world with hyper change, your best strategy is to stay light so you can be nimble. That means drama is not your mamma.

Do what you need to do to release the stress and negative emotions as quickly as possible. Refocus your emotional energy by asking “What’s next?” With lots of change, you know there’s something else coming.

If you are looking for some guidance to make this year your best yet, check out my free guide From Now On: 7 Critical Mindset Shifts for Women Entrepreneurs Going Forward.



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