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"Failing Forward" by Taryn Enos

Updated: Nov 2, 2022

My whole life, I have often been called a perfectionist. While this trait served me well on the dance stage, I found that holding onto this attitude restrained me in today’s dynamic workplace. Competing in Stoa in a variety of events gave me the ability to speak, research, write, teach, and present. However, after participating at a high level in many activities in high school, I became excited to focus on and master one skill in my next stage of life. I chose to pursue modern, ballet, and hip hop dance.

Most new graduates face a similar challenge as we begin our first year of college, vocational school, or work: Going from a nationally awarded speaker down to a Starbucks barista is an emotional swing. Everything about graduating seemed like a letdown to me. Perhaps many of us have seen graduates struggle with feeling like they went from “successful” in high school to unknown in the real world. I remember being depressed and wondering, “Is there anything in the real world that has the same level of impact that speaking with Stoa had?”

Today, I work for Compassion International—a non-profit ministry that helps release children from poverty in multiple countries. I remember facing a panel of ten people who asked me how I would be able to be content with a desk job after working as a Contemporary and Hip Hop dancer for several years. I was unsure at the time how to respond.

The biggest challenge that arose within my first few months of working for Compassion was my perfectionism. My job includes certain performance metrics that I must meet every day on every interaction. Each week and each month, employees have a performance review on how we are doing compared to the average performance across the department. This process incited massive stress for me, as anything less than “perfection” felt like failure to me. I attached this feeling to my identity. I labeled myself as a failure.

I have noticed this same tendency in many of my fellow athletes, dancers, musicians, and other performance-based workers. Instead of seeing a single shortcoming as something we can move past, we react by labeling ourselves as “failures.” During those first few months at Compassion, I had the chance to discuss my perfectionism with multiple mentors, counselors, and coworkers. They helped me see that I needed change and perspective. These came by embracing a new mindset at work about failing.

Before the workplace, if I failed, it meant that I could not move forward with school or dance. After entering the workplace, I learned that falling short of the mark is normal. It will happen to all of us. I will never be good at something that I have only done a few times. It is unrealistic for me to think I can be “the best” at a new task that I just learned today. However, each time I fall short, I have another building block to place on my current experience. Each time I fall short, I fall forward.

I learned that each block of experience is valuable. Even if it is simply working for a week at a company and being fired shortly after. You will not hear many people say that to you, but it rings true in my experience.

I have learned to use my failures to help me learn more about where I am headed. This certainly requires a perspective change, but if a perfectionist like me can do it, then anyone can.

Taryn Enos is a Stoa graduate from 2016. She spent three years attending Fine Arts performance schools and working as a professional Modern and Hip Hop dance artist. After a major injury, she retired from dancing full time and moved back to Colorado Springs in 2019. Today, she works full time for Compassion International as a Sponsor Donor Relationship Specialist. She currently attends Grand Canyon University online to finish her B.A. in Communications with a concentration on Mass Media and Broadcasting. Her goal is to step into a Communications role at Compassion. In the future, she hopes to use her teaching and presentation skills to help other people reach their goals and dreams in life.


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