How Failure Shaped These Powerful Women

  • By Koa Beck and Kaitlyn Russell
  • December 22, 2015

Coming to terms with your losses can be just as important as celebrating your successes. Recovering from failed partnerships, bad clients, or the job that got away is crucial for renewed energy in the new year.

Here are five powerful women on failure — how it shaped them, inspired them, and helped them let go of other people’s expectations.

bouncing back advice
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1. Shonda Rhimes
Shonda reminds us that it’s okay to be different. In fact, she encourages us to go against the norm and embrace our so-called failures.

"Make a pact with your friends not to turn into clones. Don't think, I need to have long hair and get a Brazilian because that's what guys want. Or if you're into girls, doing whatever you think they want. I felt like I'd failed, that something was wrong with me, because I didn't want to get married. We have to stop trying to live somebody else's idea of our life," wrote Rhimes in her best-selling book, Year of Yes.

As a television producer, director, and writer, Rhimes is known for Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away With Murder. She’s been nominated for 16 awards for her work in television, including two Emmys.

2. Blake Lively
A year after Blake launched lifestyle site Preserve, she realized that she’d rushed the product and it wasn’t ready for the public. The site folded this year, but this “failure” is serving as a stepping stone to something even greater.

“I’ve finally summoned the strength to take on whatever anybody says because I know I’m going to come back with something stronger. I’m proud of it and I can take it,” Lively said.

Lively is an actress mostly known for her performance on Gossip Girl. She’s been nominated for numerous awards, including seven Teen Choice Awards, plus People’s Choice Awards and the Jupiter Award. She’s also banked endorsements for L’Oréal and Gucci.

3. Caitlyn Jenner
Failure isn’t always inevitable — sometimes you can see it coming and course-correct. In a Vanity Fair article about her decision to transition, Caitlyn Jenner said that failure would have been to continue living in hiding:

"If I was lying on my deathbed and I had kept this secret and never ever did anything about it, I would be lying there saying, 'You just blew your entire life. You never dealt with yourself.'"

Jenner is best known for being a retired Olympic decathlon champion, bringing the U.S. a gold medal. She’s also a television personality and 2015 recipient of the ESPYs’ Arthur Ashe Courage Award.

4. Arianna Huffington
The founder and editor-in-chief of Huffington Post has faced a series of failures. In fact, her second book was rejected 36 times and she withdrew from California’s 2003 gubernatorial race with an abysmal vote count.

“My mother instilled in me that failure was not something to be afraid of, that it was not the opposite of success,” she said in an interview with Forbes. “It was a stepping stone to success. So I had no fear of failure. Perseverance is everything. I don’t give up. Everybody has failures, but successful people keep on going.”

Huffington is the co-founder, president, and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group. She has also written 15 books. She was named to Time magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people in 2011.

5. Amy Poehler
Failure is unavoidable. But you can own your screw-ups by putting your own spin on falling on your face, according to Amy Poehler.

“I’ve failed a million times on stage, just not getting laughs,” Poehler said in a Fast Company interview. “I’ve listened to notes that I knew weren’t right. I’ve pitched ideas and let other people change them, knowing that it was the wrong choice. The question you have to ask yourself is: How do you want to fail? Do you want to fail in a way that feels like it respects your tastes and value system?”

Poehler is most known for her television work on Saturday Night Live and Parks and Recreation. She’s a producer on Comedy Central’s Broad City and Difficult People on Hulu. Her memoir, Yes, Please, came out in 2014.

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