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Why is failure so stigmatized when it’s necessary for innovation? 

By  Robbie MacCue

1) People have a fear of looking bad and people's past experiences shade their current reality. Some people are traditionally afraid of not knowing all the answers.

2) Reframe your failures: "Sometimes you win, and sometimes you learn."

3) Approach situations (yourself and others) with compassion. There is such a real thing as a learning curve.

Check out our free coaching guide to develop yourself as the leader people want to follow. 

Full Video Transcript

Welcome to our EMS leadership, Q and a. And today's question is Lisa, why is failure so stigmatized when it's necessary for real innovation? It's such a great question because being afraid of failure or having the stigma around failure really prevents people from growing. And I would say it, you know, our past experience with failure really is what creates our relationship to it and ongoingly,

you know, it, that's why there's a stigma, is how we were, how we, when we failed in the past, what happened, you know, did somebody make fun of us? Did we look really bad? Did we get embarrassed? You know, did, did someone say that's okay too, that you failed? And you know, it,

that's how you learn. I mean, how we, how we were treated when we failed in the past is really why people have such a fear of it. I think people are afraid of not knowing the answer, you know, looking bad, especially when the stakes are high and in EMS, a lot of times we take, you know, how,

how we need to be in a crisis situation. And we sort of use that throughout the rest of our time. When in fact, it's, it's not really, we don't have to have the same mindset in every single situation. Absolutely. I mean, often we say, right, it's the, the life or death situations are the 2% of the time.

We're not asking you to be innovative in that moment. We rely on your, your, your training and your instincts and your, and your lifesaving skills. We're talking about the other 98% of the time where we're dealing with interpersonal issues, organizational issues, the future of the organization, how do we be innovative and keeping within our organization and our community. And that's where I think the second point here is you have the ability to re reframe the failure and sometimes you win and sometimes you learn,

right? So they also say you miss a hundred percent of the shots that you don't take. So what are you missing and giving up by not trying something new in your organization or situation or suggestion? Yeah, I think contextualizing it is really important and reframing it, like you said, you know, I often say to people, you know, think about when your child or a child that you love is learning to walk,

right. You know, go when they fall down stupid, you know, compassionate and caring. And it's part, we understand that that falling is part of learning as part of learning to walk. And it's true about failure, right? It's important and necessary for us to learn what's next. So if we have compassion and show caring, not only to ourselves,

but to other people, when they're learning and, and recognize that there is a look, there's a learning curve, it that's a thing. And in order to become masterful at anything, it takes a willingness to, to do it wrong. And I like to just stop using the word failure and just recognize that, you know, there's a, there's a mastery scale,

right? And you're not yet a master and what's necessary are various steps along the way. And sometimes they're what we think they should look like. And sometimes they're what we, we have an opinion that they shouldn't look that way, but it's all part of the game of masters. Well beautifully said. And if people want more information, they can learn about our keeping the best program on our website or are,

they can get a free coaching guide@emsleadershipacademy.com forward slash coaching with some other recommended tips for addressing this issue. Thanks for joining us.

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Robbie MacCue


Robbie is the cofounder of the EMS Leadership Academy, host of the EMS Leadership Summit, and paramedic captain in Albany, NY where he serves in the Special Operations Division for ground rescue, flight, & tactical medicine. He performs international medical flights with North America's largest fixed wing Air Ambulance service. For more than 14 years, Robbie served as President of a non-profit EMS organization advocating for increased funding and raising the bar of excellence. In addition, Robbie is an American Heart Association advocate who is passionate about empowering others to save more lives. He has taught physicians, nurses, and other medical providers Advanced Cardiac Life Support at medical schools and hospitals throughout Manhattan. Robbie has undergraduate degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and a MBA from Case Western Reserve University and provides business consulting that combines his love of technology with healthcare.

Robbie MacCue

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