Stacey Abrams: The Essential Lessons You Can Learn From Failure

In her opening address to Spelman College’s Class of 2022, Stacey Abrams drew on her wealth of political and business experience.

The 48-year-old former state legislator ran for governor of Georgia in 2018 and will run again in 2022. She was also co-founder of utilitiesa fintech company, in 2010. Her talk on May 15 contained hard-won advice on the subject of failure — a message that applies to entrepreneurs as much as it does to graduate students.

“Learn your lessons, not lose you,” she said.

Abrams explained that the phrase means that every failure comes with an opportunity for education and a responsibility to act. She used her 2018 campaign for governor as an example: She lost but not making it to office, she said, was no excuse for her to pursue the goals she had outlined in her campaign. “If you don’t get everything you want, it doesn’t mean it’s not worth it,” she said. “It was enough if I was willing to keep my promises and put them into action.

“Failure is inevitable, but it’s not permanent,” she added.

Abrams also stressed the importance of recognizing how other people’s actions, in addition to your own, contributed to failure. By doing this, she said, she’s telling you how to respond and approach the following scenario: “We’re bringing [others] join us, or we exclude them altogether.”

Abrams shared two other important lessons in her talk: “Be courageous in your ambition” and “Know your beliefs.” As part of the first, she recommended being humble but not self-effacing, explaining the distinction between the two when trying to achieve a goal. Humility, she said, is acknowledging the contributions of others, while effacing yourself takes no credit for your own work.

Knowing your specific beliefs can help you know what to advocate for, be more resistant to rejection, and respect other points of view. “If you know what you believe and you don’t believe too much,” Abrams said, “you create space for growth and progress. You create space for transformation.”

Shreya Christina
Shreya has been with for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider team, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

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