Do You Have Resilience — The Ability to Forget Your Past Failures?

Resilience lets you try again after you fail and when all historical evidence is against your success.

I entered a beauty pageant once. That means I voluntarily, even enthusiastically, put myself into a contest where I’d be judged on not just on beauty, but also on talent, grace, personality, poise, and the ability to meet and charm people. But…

  • Talent? I couldn’t sing, dance, or twirl — Daddy had “lost” my baton after I broke two lamps and an ashtray.
  • Grace? I’d tipped and fallen so many times that my knees were permanently scarred.
  • Personality and poise? I was an introvert and walking into a group of people was painful.
  • Facing pageant judges? I hated being judged! It changed me. I didn’t talk at all, or I talked a lot, speaking faster and faster, saying things to impress or be funny — that didn’t!

Still, when they put up the roster for the pageant, I didn’t hesitate. I went up and signed my name. Why? Because I have a gift that makes me resilient and lets me reach for goals even though the odds are against me or I’ve failed before: Failure-amnesia. It is what enabled me to hurl myself into the pageant, and many other improbable endeavors, throughout my life.

Failure amnesia: the ability to forget, completely block out, failings and past failures.

Without the drag of failure-memories I ignore obstacles and past failures and get up and try again and until I finally accomplish the goal.

Walking into the unknown~

All I knew about a beauty pageant was what I’d seen on the Miss America Pageant on TV – girls walking across the stage in beautiful evening gowns, then the crown, and the roses. They also twirled or sang opera, but I didn’t think about that. All I thought about was my walk across the stage in the most beautiful yellow gown I’d ever seen. I had to get on that stage. That was the entire pageant for me. But there was so much more.


Five women sitting at a dining table, with the woman sitting at the nearest edge of the table dipping her head toward the edge as the other women talk amongst each other.

Showing off my grace in front of the group.

A Luncheon on a Very Sunny Day~

At the kick-off luncheon for the pageant, I got the chance to show off my grace in front of the group of girls, matrons, and judges. It was late fall but the temperature rose to 80 degrees. I wore a really cute suit. It was wool. It itched, and I kept gracefully dropping my napkin so I could lean down and scratch inconspicuously.

Standing Before The Judges~

Five people sitting at a table, with four on side and one on the other.

Sitting before the judges

I wasn’t remembering what happened to me when I was in a group of people, so I was confident that I could win as I walked into the room where the panel of judges was waiting to interview me. Then I saw their faces and heard the first question and knew. These people were there for just one purpose—to judge me, to judge every word I said. They had clipboards to scratch their judgments. With every answer, they scratched more furiously.

“If you win, how will you use your pageant title to better society?”

Huh? I couldn’t think of a single way my being a beauty queen could help society. With nothing to say, I talked for a good five minutes. I couldn’t stop myself. I felt my face growing hotter by the minute as I searched for a good exit line. When I finally stopped, nobody wrote on their clipboard.

I still had two more chances, beauty and grace.

A woman stretching to dance

Gotta dance

Gotta Dance!

Beauty and grace were judged on pageant night. Grace meant I had to dance. The girls met at a dance studio to learn the steps to our group routine. Again, failure-amnesia let me go forward optimistic of success. I didn’t remember how my sister had tried to teach me to jitterbug until she finally gave up. I just couldn’t make my arms and both legs work together.

The dance instructor taught us steps that I was sure my body was never meant to take. Not only was I supposed to do these contortions, but I was supposed to do them all at the same time the other girls did them. Undeterred, I threw myself into it, relentlessly practicing those steps until my muscles cramped.

A woman falling on her face after dancing

I was dancing – until I fell flat on my face

The stage, the gown — and the points for poise!

I was dancing – until I fell flat on my face. But I got up, looked at the audience, and smiled. Afterwards, I was told that smile got me points for poise, but not enough.

 Failure-Amnesia: Gift or Hazard?

You might think I failed and that my failure-amnesia wasn’t such a gift. You’d be wrong. I didn’t get roses or a crown, but I did get to walk across the stage in the most beautiful yellow dress I’d ever seen. And I got what I’ll bet is the best story to came out of that pageant!

Failure amnesia is definitely a gift. It’s empowering because it sends you back into the game with an undiluted belief that you can win. Once I entered the business world, it was the biggest contributor to my success. With it, I forgot rejections and tried again, failed again, forgot again, and tried again. It gave me the courage to start my own company and keep it going in spite of my mistakes and failings.

Resilience is a gift and ultimate success is not the only acceptable result. Sometimes it’s enough just to know you had the courage to get into the game!

Women standing and sitting in a photograph, all dressed in pearl-white gowns, with smiling faces of resilience and determination.

Resilience brought me here.

  • Have you ever experienced “failure amnesia”? How has blocking out past failures or setbacks contributed to your own success?
  • Have you ever fallen on your face and managed to get back up? How do use that experience to inspire you in the future?
  • How do you feel about the quote from Mark Twain? “All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure.”
June 1, 2017