SHM Converge

Wellness tips: How to build on failure



Converge 2021 session

Fall Down Seven Get Up Eight: Making Your Setbacks Count: Strategic Risk Taking, Maintaining Resilience, and Finding Success


Marisha Burden, MD, and Flora Kisuule, MD, MPH, SFHM

Session summary

The speakers at this Converge session, in the “Wellness and Resilience” track, covered four major topics: strategic risk-taking, wrestling with failure, embracing constraints, and embracing institutional chaos. First, they began by relating a personal story about failure and discussed how reframing failure could help you learn how to “fail forward.” They outlined how building upon failures can lead to many benefits, such as gaining personal strength, gaining perspective, and seeing new possibilities. They also introduced three roadblocks to failing forward: Personalization, Pervasiveness, and Permanence.

Dr. Tiffani Panek, Administrator of the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center Division of Hospital Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland

Tiffani Panek

Next, the speakers lead the attendees through an exercise called The Nine Dot Problem, the purpose of which was to illustrate how thinking outside the box can help you find solutions that you cannot otherwise see. They also discussed how thinking inside the box could have its own advantages in that it teaches us to embrace our limitations, which can open up our creativity. They expounded upon this by showing a TED talk about finding liberation in constraints. The speakers wrapped up the session relating the tale of David and Goliath, and explained how David used his own unique advantages to gain power over a seemingly insurmountable problem.

Key takeaways

  • Failing forward helps you continue to push ahead and grow, and perspective can help you fail forward.
  • When failing, beware the Three Ps.
  • Reframe constraints and be sure to think both inside and outside of the box – embrace limitations as a way to inspire new thinking.
  • When facing something bigger than you, play to your own advantages in order to succeed.

Ms. Panek is hospital medicine division administrator at the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, Baltimore.

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