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Failure: An Expected Guest

Failure: An Expected Guest

...losing taught me freedom.

When I was in college, I was a sprinter (for you track fans out there, the 400m dash was my main event). Many, many training sessions, pairs of shoes, taped feet, and ice baths later, one of the most valuable things I gained was getting used to failure.

I’m actually pretty competitive, so don’t be misled into thinking I don’t care about winning. (Ha!) But while the drive to win taught me discipline, confidence, and focus, losing taught me freedom.

Regular public failure required me to develop a sense of security beyond success, and once I had it, I was able to freely find the edge of my capacity and risk stepping beyond it.

In my post college years, I have looked back on my experience with failure in athletics as a season of “training wheels.” The risks and failures I ventured into in that season had few real world consequences.

...I was able to freely find the edge of my capacity and risk stepping beyond it.

These days, I find that my failures often carry a much bigger ripple effect, affecting the lives of those I care about. It’s challenged me to again develop a sense of security beyond perfection. Really, no system that depends on me to be perfect is very secure, though I think it can have that illusion. “If I could just perform perfectly, things will be alright in my own life and the lives of those I care for.”

But really, things became much more secure when I got honest with myself and others about the reality of failure as part of my existence and my best efforts to help. That honesty allowed me to think of responding to my own failures as part of “normal life.” Not something to be rigidly prevented or defended against, but allowed in as an expected guest.


Allison (Allie) Ramsey is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Therapist. Allie works with individuals on a broad range of issues, including anxiety, depression, relational challenges, faith integration, divorce, and aging. 

On Failing and Making Awesome Happen: An Interview with Jessica Rosen, Owner of One Down Dog

On Failing and Making Awesome Happen: An Interview with Jessica Rosen, Owner of One Down Dog

Lauren Ziel: Thank you, first and foremost, for agreeing to chit-chat. I think Michelle and I had you in mind because it’s the new year — beginning of 2019 — and really thick with rebirth, change, growth and resolutions. Even though that’s exciting; such a positive spin - I think sometimes we can overlook the hard, non-linear path towards success and how usually that road is paved in failure. With Michelle and I both knowing you and your success in growing your business One Down Dog - from an outsider perspective, you’re f*&#in rocking it. And yet, we also know that you have worked your ass off and there’s been struggle and failure in the process— and you’ve been so open and honest with that. So, we thought you’d be a really good person to comment on what it means to fail and why that can be a great and integral thing in the process of becoming successful. So, again, thank you. 

Jessica Rosen: Thank you!

LZ: So, we wanted to know in the context of your business [running multiple yoga studios] and in how you’ve grown over the years, what would you say is your greatest failure?

I’m trying to really show up for myself.

JR: Oh man, there are so many little ones. It’s hard to think of the biggest one. Okay…so, I think my biggest failure…maybe failure isn’t the right word…but we’ll go this one: it has been in my own ability to get shit done. Which, I know like you said, from the outside everything looks amazing, but I have a tendency to put things off, to get really overwhelmed and bogged down by the details and by the minutiae, by my email inbox, and in little things that take away from my bigger picture. I have this tendency to spin in circles and then at the end of every single day say, “I didn’t get anything done today.” 

What I’ve realized in the last few month is…I set myself up for failure in that way. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. I say “I can’t get anything done.” And, therefore, I don’t get anything done. So, I’m trying to really show up for myself. I don’t really know if failure is the right word for all of this. But it feels like a failure when I go home and feel that sense of self-defeat. I’m shifting that, and I’m working hard on chunking things and giving myself projects. Because that feels more successful when I take things in chunks instead of trying to do everything all at one time. 

LZ: Yeah, we might want to play with that — can we reframe failure with a different word? But what I’m hearing in your process is that you’re coming home at the end of the day with a certain sense. And because of that sense and wanting to change, then you’re pivoting and finding a different way to attack something. It’s almost like you have to learn from the failure…you have to get to the point of feeling this certain way in order for that to be the impetus for you to innovate, pivot, change direction, scrap, go, etc. I think that is maybe what we’re getting at — the failures are these small or big chances…opportunities…to really hone in on what’s important and what will lead to either a growth or a success or something of that nature. How do you think failure has been a part of One Down Dog’s success?

JR: It’s a big part. It’s a constant learning of “Okay, I tried that. Okay, that didn’t work. Let’s try this..” In figuring out our hiring process. In our on-boarding process. In negotiating lease agreements. With our schedule. Trying a class and then it not doing well. And then having to figure out the right time for it or the right teacher with the right class type. It’s a constant evolution. Without those moments of things not working or “failing,” there’s no way we could have gotten to where we’re at today. I started in a temporary shared space and somehow now there’s three locations with two yoga rooms in each of them. That whole process was a series of throwing a ton of spaghetti at a wall and seeing what sticks. 

LZ: You’re doing the Make Awesome Happen workshop. Is failure woven into that? 

JR: Yes, absolutely. The biggest thing that I’ve noticed in my own life and I’ve seen it in others’ lives that stops us from making awesome happen, whether that’s making our biggest, wildest dreams come true or with the smaller stuff like personal interactions in our head….a big piece is our own negative self-talk, self-doubt, and our fear of failing. The fear of doing it wrong. The fear of it not working. And then like I mentioned before…this self-fulfilling prophecy where I’ll think that something isn’t gonna work or that I’m not getting shit done…whatever the case….and then it will be. Because I set myself up for it. That’s a big part of what I talk about in the workshop. How do we overcome those fears of failure? How can we reframe what failure is in our lives? Because ultimately, as corny as it is, failures are lessons and opportunities for growth. Every time something doesn’t work, it’s guiding us in the direction of what’s going to…if there’s a willingness to look at it and allow space for it. It can very easily turn into “Well, that didn’t work and that proves my point. Therefore, it’s never gonna happen.” Or it can be, “Well, that didn’t work but I learned something so wonderful from that experience and now there’s potential for something else” - which is amazing.

Without those moments of things not working or “failing,” there’s no way we could have gotten to where we’re at today.

LZ: Yeah. So, rather than foreclosing and shutting down. It’s the door closing and the window opening metaphor. 

JR: Yes, exactly.

 LZ: You’re the OG bosslady. One person can facilitate a culture in an organization of celebrating failure or in the very least saying that it’s okay. How do you think you have fostered that at One Down Dog?

JR: My initial response is that I could a lot better in fostering that. As I mentioned earlier, I have a tendency to be really hard on myself, and I’m certain that bleeds into the rest of my company to a certain extent. There’s a level of ask for forgiveness, not permission. And an understanding that just because something didn’t work the way we expected that doesn’t mean we throw it out. We’ve had events where we thought “Oh, this is going to be amazing and we’re going to have so many people show up” and then there will be two people who attend. I don’t want to just throw it away because there’s a reason why we thought it was going to be amazing. So, how do we do a sort of SWOT analysis? For those that don’t know, SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and…what does the “T” stand for?** (We’ll find out…). Anyway, so, we’ll look at: where are the opportunities in this experience? How can we reframe, re-shift, regroup, and keep the momentum going? Because a good idea is something to cherish and hold onto. It’s like clay. You gotta re-work it a little.

LZ: A good idea in one scenario won’t be the greatest idea in the next. Yeah, and you gotta mold and shape it as it goes. I like that metaphor. That’s a nice metaphor as we close. Thank you, Jess. I really appreciate your time. Yes, we will figure out the “T”!

JR: Yeah, I’m sure I’ll remember as soon as we hang up. 

LZ: Thank you very much. 

JS: Thank you!


**Note: The “T” in SWOT Analysis stands for “Threats.”


Jessica Rosen is a yoga teacher and an entrepreneur. She is the owner of One Down Dog (ODD), a community of three yoga studios in Northeast Los Angeles. Check out this post on ODD’s Blog for more about this awesome woman.


Lauren Ziel, MSW is a Registered Associate Clinical Social Worker, ASW #76483, working under the supervision of Gabrielle Taylor, PhD. Through the use of movement and mindfulness, Lauren develops specialized treatment for anxiety, depression, eating disorders, challenges in life-stage transitions, relational difficulties, and identity/intrapersonal development.