Try Again, Fail Again, Fail Better! | Daily News

Try Again, Fail Again, Fail Better!

Confession: I failed the Year Five Scholarship! I didn’t study. I was too enthralled reading all the books on my father’s bookshelves to bother about learning how to solve difficult maths problems especially the ones that said Sunil bought fifty mangoes for five rupees each, how much did he pay for them? (I was too busy imagining why Sunil would want fifty mangoes to juggle with the numbers). But the F I got didn’t deter me from doing well in all the other exams I sat thereafter, nor did it affect my career (no one at a single interview I faced ever asked me if I passed the Grade 5 scholarship). And so, I figured it really is okay to fail sometimes, so far as like how Abraham Lincoln said, you are ready to rise again.

Especially when most of the influential people in our lives have also cemented their legacy through their failures. When asked about the many thousands of failures he had gone through when he was trying to create the light-bulb Thomas Alva Edison famously said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Expelled from high school for being a “rebel and a dunce”, Einstein went on to become one of the smartest people who ever lived and changed the way scientists - and the rest of us - understand the world. Steven Spielberg was repeatedly rejected by the University of Southern California’s school of theatre, film and television, so he just got on with the job of becoming one of the most successful and important film-makers of all time instead.

Despite being dyslexic, dropping out of school at 16, Richard Branson is worth around four billion dollars today. JK Rowling herself said she was the “biggest failure I knew” and credits a lot of her success to her failure.

Failure. The word most of us dread. We want to be a success. We want to be admired. But that dreaded word keeps popping up.

According to Joshua Becker in his article, “A Positive, Encouraging Effort to Overcome Failure,’ this is so because life is not always a comedy. At times it’s a tragedy. To be human is to fail. We know this to be true from almost everything we do. We fail in the small things: staying on a diet, keeping New Year’s resolutions, or controlling clutter in our homes. We fail in the larger things: overcoming an addiction, finding employment, or holding on to an important relationship and of course, failing exams. And sometimes our failures negatively impact the rest of our lives: keeping a marriage together, persuading a child to make better choices, or giving up studying a subject we love because we failed the first exam.

But in each setback-whether small or large-we find opportunity for growth. And as long as a glimmer of hope remains, we survive.

As far as newly published research goes, telling children that it is perfectly normal to sometimes fail at school can actually help them do better academically. The results of three experiments by French researchers are not definitive but they are intuitive; kids who don’t feel overwhelming pressure to do well all the time are more likely to feel free to explore, take academic chances and not fall apart if they make a mistake.

Here’s how the experiment was conducted. 111 sixth-graders were all given very difficult anagram problems. A sub-group of the students who were told that learning can be hard and that they should expect to sometimes fail did better on a test measuring working memory capacity than students in two other groups who did not have the same failure-is-okay discussion.

So, being open to the possibilities of failure is not all that bad. Which is why one primary school took the step of sending a letter out to all the pupils receiving their transfer test results - the results that would decide which secondary school they would get into in the new term. Harmony Hill Primary School in Lisburn asked each pupil to read their letter before opening the enclosed test results. ‘Inside the envelope is a score,’ the letter began. ‘It’s a score you’ve been waiting for, but it might not be the score you’ve been hoping for. If that’s the case,’ it read, ‘it’s only natural that you will feel disappointed. We will feel disappointed for you too - but we won’t feel disappointed in you,’ the letter went on to explain. ‘Unfortunately, in life, things don’t always work out the way we want them to and it can take a little time to sort out the feelings and thoughts we can have when that happens. We know that each of you has worked very hard and with a great attitude. No score can ever take that away from you. In fact, we believe that your attitude and who you are as a person is much more important than any mark on a test.’

Yet, in spite of such comforting words, we all know failure represents the low points in the volatile, messy progression of our lives. This, however, is precisely how life goes. Life is not a nice, linear curve going steadily upwards as time goes by. Instead, it’s a chaotic progression of successes and failures. Peaks and valleys.

So the best thing to do when we encounter failure would be to process our weaknesses. “Socrates once said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” This holds true in both success and failure. When failure occurs, which it always will, the wisest of us journey inward to determine the cause and intentional steps we can take to learn from the experience. And in time, we learn to champion humility,” says Becker.

Another benefit of failure is that we grow through pain. The way Becker puts it “We live in a society passionately committed to avoiding pain. But there is benefit to be found in discomfort. While I would never encourage anybody to intentionally seek pain through failure, it will arise. And when it does, it will be okay. In fact, it will teach us things we could never learn elsewhere: patience and perseverance for example.”

So whenever we fail, be it an exam or a relationship let’s begin by admitting we failed. Despite the universality of failure, our world goes to great lengths to hide it. People always have and people always will. Our default position too often is to downplay our weaknesses, but if we are to find growth in failure we should begin by simply admitting its existence in our lives.

Once we do this, we will realize failure is common. Because we know all of us experience it, we can find comfort knowing we are not alone in it.

The mantra to remember is that failure is never the end. It is instead, a necessary part of our journey.

Michael Jordan said it best. “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” [email protected]


How to Overcome Failure

1. First, just accept how you feel.

When you have just failed it will most likely hurt. Sometimes a bit. Sometimes a lot. That’s OK. Don’t try to push it away by distracting yourself or by trying to push the responsibility onto the rest of the world (if you deep down know that this one’s on you partly or fully). And don’t try to paint it over with a smile. Because when you let it in and accept it then it will go faster and in the long run be less painful to process what has happened. If you reject how you really feel then those emotions will pop up at unexpected times later on and can make you moody, pessimistic, angry or sad.

2. Remember: you’re not a failure just because you had a setback. When you’ve had a setback it’s very easy to start thinking that you will always keep failing in this area of your life. It’s easy to start thinking that YOU are indeed a failure. Don’t fall for such a destructive and sometimes seductive self-fulfilling prophecy.

3. Be constructive and learn from this situation. See it more as valuable feedback and something you can use to improve rather than only a big blow and setback.

4. Remind yourself: anyone who wants to do things of value in life will fail. We often mostly just hear about people’s successes. But the path to those milestones tends to have many setbacks.

5. Move forward again, don’t get stuck in mulling this situation over for too long. 


Add new comment