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Dr. Tomaino's Blog

Failing Forward

October 23rd, 2011
There are books and countless articles on this subject—the essence of the phrase is that Failure is part of life—of being human, and that with failure comes choice. Is failure a “scarlet letter” that will forever soil a legacy or is it rather inevitable, and an opportunity to grow?

This week I was saddened to hear in the news of a local teacher who was involved in an automobile accident that his choices had, in part, contributed to. The details of whether his actions were indeed volitional or simply mistakes are irrelevant to me----because I know this man and trust the authenticity of his character. Absent that confidence I suppose I might be sucked into feeling entitled to judge his failure. But because I do not, I can more spiritually digest the value of the hardship of failure.

In Surgery it has been said that “Good judgement comes from experience, and that experience comes from bad judgement.”

Failure is inevitably linked with innovation, the scientific method---achievement. Is there an iron clad way to avoid failure? Mmm—probably helps if one does not lead. Indeed, being a change agent of any kind certainly portends a high risk of failure. As a father, I don’t discourage my son from failing, I just pray that the consequences are not too painful.

When I provide care to a patient, I not only plan for the best possible outcome, I do everything possible to achieve it. When I fail, I hope that my patient is grateful for the effort , and trusts my authenticity and intention. Dissatisfaction can be painful, nevertheless. But the only way to avoid that occasional failure is to say—“I can’t help you.”

So---to my friend—mentioned above, and to any one honest enough to acknowledge failure in their life—it is not a “scarlet letter”---but essential to success—so long as we fail forward.



That is very unfortunate, both for your friend and those injured. That certainly is not the sort of experience anyone would choose to learn from. The stretch of road involved is similar to driving on Jefferson Road with lane changes and construction....even in day light can be treacherous. Our school community here recently suffered a tragic loss due to one man’s similar poor judgment. I cannot imagine being in either’s position. Hopefully everyone involved will come away from these experiences having learned a valuable lesson from the knowledge gained. This should be a practical experience for the school to lead the boys in prayerful understanding and forgiveness.

God’s will be done.


October 23rd, 2011 @ 9:07 pm

enjoyed reading your blog and the thoughts and insights it inspired in me. thank you

October 31st, 2011 @ 2:07 pm
Dr Tomaino

Thanks for sharing az!! Happy Halloween

October 31st, 2011 @ 5:04 pm
Maryann Mazzaferro

There is nothing wrong with failure as long as we learn from our mistakes. i always remember a teacher who told me it is better to have tried and failed than never to have tried at all. As long as we learn from ourf mistakes failure is not in vain. Love what you have told your son Dr. Tomaino- as long as we fail forward - great blog and message for all. cant believe i am answering your blog soo Late!!!! Soooo involved in pt for my arm i almost forgot!!! No such thing as failure with pt- I will keep trying until I succeed!!!! Just another way to interpret!!!!

November 10th, 2011 @ 3:57 pm

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