Fail Forward
Lessons learned from our 2016 Executive Suite leaders
By Nicole Keiner
Date Published: 1/1/2017


I thoroughly enjoyed listening to each of the unique stories of the South Central Pennsylvania regional executives I interviewed over the last year. Whether they were talking about their families or the start of their careers, every conversation was unique. For many, a question would branch off into another story, while some would be triggered by another. A few grew up in the same town or city. Some ended up in their career by chance, while others knew as children what they wanted to be when they grew up. 

One question I always asked and truly enjoyed hearing the response was “When is a time you failed and what did you learn from that experience?” This is a tough question, not because they can’t think of a moment in time when this occurred, but rather which failure made more of an impact on their lives—both personally and professionally. We all fail and experience challenges in life. We all face adversity but you need to decide when it happens, will you move 2 steps back or will you go forward and move 2 steps ahead? When you reach a crossroads in life, will you turn around or march in a different direction? Each executive went forward. 

Billionaire Oprah Winfrey, who was fired from her first job as a television anchorwoman, once said “There is no such thing as failure. Failure is just life trying to move us in another direction.”

Gene Barr, president of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business & Industry, mentioned that there isn’t one time in his life that he failed when he hasn’t learned something from it. “I fail regularly, we all do. You learn from your mistakes.” One time he failed when he was in the process of getting his book published. “I wanted to get an agent, but I couldn’t articulate why the book should be published so I didn’t have an agent.” What did he learn? “While I didn’t have an agent this time, next time I publish a book, I would like to have one.”

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