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I recently learned of a plastic surgeon, Dr. Katherine Roxanne Grawe, who allegedly filmed and live-broadcasted some medical procedures on TikTok. The State Medical Board of Ohio voted unanimously on July 12, 2023, to permanently revoke her medical license. My thoughts are with her patients, because some were injured, and with Grawe herself, because no one goes to medical school or nursing school for that matter with the intention of being barred from practicing one day.

My intention is not to pile on the doctor or minimize the trauma that impacted patients experienced. Instead, I want to recognize this as a teachable moment for the rest of us. Even as I acknowledge this unfortunate situation, I recognize the many lessons in it.

For one, this is a reminder of the dangers of social media. There is tremendous pressure to grow one’s social media following. Growing your platform can increase investments in your organization or company, boost book sales and increase your online reach. Having a large platform is nice, but the real focus should be on developing a strong brand and reputation. But not everything is meant for social media. For those who work in the medical or legal professions or who are bound by privacy concerns, sharing too much online can be unethical and dangerous.

Next, while having a large online platform is helpful, we cannot discard ethical practices in pursuit of it. Growing a platform takes time. Success doesn’t always happen overnight; and even if it did, we all need time to develop the character and capacity to maintain it.

But the other lesson we can draw from this experience is around failure. At some point or another, we are all going to fail. And we may fail repeatedly. Your failure may not be like Grawe’s, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t be painful to you or people around you. At some point, you are going to do something or say something that will cause you and others harm. That will happen because you are human and because we are all on a journey to become the best versions of ourselves possible.

The question becomes: What should you do when you fail? Here are five things you can do to process and recover from failure:

  1. Understand what happened and why. When I fail, I try to take a step back and understand why I failed. What was the context surrounding my failure? What were the warning signs I dismissed or overlooked? What led to the failure? Was it hubris? Was it greed? Was it carelessness? Was it a lack of diligence? When I understand what contributed to my failure, it is easier for me to process and develop a plan for moving forward. And to be clear, processing and healing from failure doesn’t happen overnight, and it often can’t happen in isolation. You may need a therapist, counselor or trusted advisor to help you unpack your failure. Although human nature is to recoil from painful experiences, having someone to help you process the failure can make the process more manageable.
  2. Be accountable. When you fail, you must also be accountable. You must own what you did. Being accountable is taking ownership for what happened and how your actions or choices caused another person harm. That means you must understand what you did and how that impacted others, and you must seek ways to offer restitution or amends. Being accountable is not only good for the parties you harmed, but it is good for your soul. When you’re accountable, I believe you speed up, or at least help facilitate, your own healing and recovery. Being accountable could look like going to the people harmed and listening as they recount how you harmed them.
  3. Seek and offer forgiveness. Healthy people don’t feel good knowing that they have harmed others. If possible, they seek forgiveness. However, you cannot force others to forgive you, but you can apologize and request forgiveness. Then you must forgive yourself. That means you must let yourself off the hook and not hold a grudge against yourself. You made a mistake, and you are worthy of the forgiveness you seek from others. You do not have to beat yourself up or punish yourself for your mistakes. You can choose to forgive yourself and move forward.
  4. Implement guardrails. One of the things I learned with my professional coach is that when a person knows they struggle with a certain area, it is imperative that they implement guardrails to keep themself and others safe. For instance, if you struggle with oversharing, think about the guardrails you can implement that can help you be more discerning and selective about what you share. If you struggle with pride and hubris, think about the guardrails – such as an accountability partner – to help you manage your ego. If you struggle with overspending, think about systems you can put in place to better manage your money. You can also think about underlying struggles that you may need to address in therapy, which could help you uncover hidden belief systems around money. The bottom line is that without guardrails or systems in place to protect you from yourself, you are bound to make the same mistakes repeatedly. Guardrails also give you comfort in knowing that you have a game plan in place to protect yourself and others.
  5. Take a pause. When you make a mistake, hurt feelings can abound. You may be hurt and angry. And the people impacted by your actions may be hurt and angry as well. Rather than immediately jumping in and trying to explain your actions, it can be helpful to take a pause. That doesn’t mean that you delay apologizing. It simply means that you take time to process what happened. You take time to gain clarity on what happened and why. The pause could be a few weeks to a few months. For some people, it could be longer. It’s important to take a pause because, in the aftermath of painful moments, you can’t always see clearly. Or you can’t see clearly without processing the experience with a therapist, counselor or someone who is more healed than you are. It is imperative to pause after failure.

It’s easy to offer this list in a linear format, but that doesn’t mean any of these steps are inherently easy. They are difficult. Processing failure can also be painful and challenging. Give yourself the time you need to process failure without feeling like you need to rush the process. There is no timetable. Get the help you need to move through these steps, understanding that you can come out on the other side if you’re willing to put in the work.

Jennifer R. Farmer is the author two books, including “Extraordinary PR, Ordinary Budget: A Strategy Guide.” 


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