Embracing failure as a stepping stone for Starting from Scratch with Kathryn Parsons

Kathryn is a pro in Starting from Scratch. She started a new job in a new country while not speaking the language, just as she was starting to see success from her efforts, she started again in a new city mid-pandemic. Most of her career changes are doubly hard as the timing coincided with starting from scratch on a personal level.


What taught you resilience?

"I come from a socially conservative family, I am a high-functioning autistic, and identify as bi-sexual. You can imagine how hard it was to find acceptance." Kathryn was not diagnosed with autism early in her childhood. Kathryn's family assumed she was developmentally disabled with a speech impediment. Her intelligence wasn’t acknowledged until she was able to find her voice through writing and extensive speech therapy. Her parents set the bar low and didn’t pressure her to succeed with the same expectations as the boys, despite her consistently making the honor roll. As she started to push to socialize more and date, her parents insisted on arranging her suitors and her brothers chaperoned her to events. As she moved towards adulthood, the pressure was given to go to a state school with her younger brother. When she insisted to go to college on her own, out of state, they set a high financial threshold on what she needed to raise to go. She managed to receive scholarships and attend the college of her choosing, majoring in English.

"My parents had a very different plan for me. They got frustrated with my independence and sophomore year suddenly demanded that I change to a more ‘practical’ major and move in with my brother. When I didn't do as they wanted, I ended up losing their support. Their ‘our way or the highway’ ultimatum left me homeless. I slept in my car, at friends' places, and washed at public bathrooms until I managed to save enough to have a place of my own. It took me seven years to graduate college as I paid for my own choices. Doing all this taught me I can do anything.” When asked what others should do who are facing similar challenges, “Each person needs to find their inspiration. One can focus on what went wrong or focus on solving the problem. Sometimes it's better to start fresh and make the past just a stepping stone towards success rather than suffer in silence because of the fear of future failure."

How do you deal with failure or rejection?

"When you reach a point when something is broken there's no point in thinking it's your fault. It is important not to continue on the same path because it will stay broken if you do. You cannot underestimate the power of having a choice. The choice is always better than having no agency and decisions made for you. "

Kathryn read "Failing Forward," a book that truly resonated with her, and recommended I read it. When I told her the term "failing forward" was an interesting concept, she said, "don't focus on that, focus on the subtitle, it says Turning Mistakes Into Stepping Stones for Success. For me, it means I can always focus on what went wrong, but if I want to start something new, I need to make the past a stepping stone".

"If you really want to achieve your dreams I mean really achieve them not just daydream or talk about them, you've got to get out there and fail, fail early, fail often but always fail forward. Turn your mistakes into stepping stones for success. " John C. Maxwell. Failing Forward.

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