Ellie Rogers has endured set backs in her life. But to her, failure does not carry stereotypical negativity. From failure, she has learned. And because she has learned, she has the courage to share. That's what the 2013 Failure-Lab is all about—bringing local men, women, employees, and parents together to share how life's road has not always been smooth and straight. Brave presenters will put their stories on the table in hope that those who listen could learn, too.
Two years ago, Jordan O'Neill attended a similar conference in the Detroit area and was moved by the shocking tale of failure and the speaker's willingness to tell it to strangers. O'Neill and the rest of the Failure-Lab team recruited community members such as Rogers to take part in the "human-centric" event. "What we're hoping to do through this is create a safe space for people to share personal, deep stories about failure so that it removes the sometimes-stigma around failure. These are the kind of stories that are only talked about in quiet social circles; but there, people aren't given the opportunity to learn from them," O'Neill said. "My hope is that people become more accepting of this and share more stories, so that others can grow from the experience and even help others."
And that's exactly why Rogers got on board with the project. In the wake of her divorce and "dysfunctional" co-parenting situation, Rogers has a story to which she believes many women could relate. "How thin can somebody be spread?" Rogers said. "I think the biggest challenge for women is that innately, we're caregivers and so our default mode is often to put other people first, second, third, fourth, or fifth … We don't always put ourselves first, our career development first, our personal relationships."
Rogers' daughter is eight years old, and she lives in Minneapolis full time during the school year, while Rogers lives and works in West Michigan for Herman Miller. "Thanks to a great employer, I've been able to experiment with an unconventional situation and balance both," she said.
Like many women, Rogers made the decision to wait until her daughter was old enough before she went back to school. Still, she doesn't feel that she put her career on hold to be a mother, but rather that she took her foot "off the accelerator a little bit."
Rogers believes that life's events—even the trials—shape our outcomes. And at Failure-Lab, a sold-out Wealthy Street Theater will hear her story of defeat and, hopefully, take from it a lesson in perseverance.
Failure-Lab will take place on May 23 at 7 p.m. If the event goes well, O'Neill and his team are looking to go beyond Grand Rapids and bring the Failure-Lab concept to other cities across the country. Stay tuned, and click here to learn more about Failure-Lab.
Written by: Erika Fifelski is West Michigan Woman magazine's staff writer. She graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in journalism. Erika was born and raised in West Michigan, and after a brief stint on the sunrise side, she's home and loving it. Photo: Ellie Rogers