Newspaper article Sunshine Coast Daily (Maroochydore, Australia)

What Failure Can Teach Us

Newspaper article Sunshine Coast Daily (Maroochydore, Australia)

What Failure Can Teach Us

Article excerpt


SO MUCH is written about success and successful people. Less is written about failure. But I am coming to understand what a valuable teacher failure can be.

I recently read a piece by J.K. Rowling, a re-posting of her 2008 commencement address at the annual meeting of the Harvard Alumni Association.

She entitled her address 'The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination'. As part of this address she expressed: "It is impossible to live life without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all - in which case, you fail by default."

In the past few years, I have had reason to think about my own sense of failure. I don't like to fail. I imagine that few people like the feelings linked to failing and falling. And when we have had goals we just didn't reach, we can feel failure deeply and for a long time. We can feel like we have let ourselves - and others - down.

J.K. Rowling says: "Ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure, but the world is quite eager to give you a set criteria if you let it."

Schools, sporting clubs and workplaces quite often send the message that winning and being a winner is the only worthwhile achievement. In these kinds of comparison-driven cultures, failure is inevitable. Yet, as I look at failure in my own life, like J.K. Rowling, I can see that failure has benefits.

When we experience failure, the unnecessary is stripped away. What really matters to us is laid brightly bare. And sitting with what matters offers new invitations and new opportunities.

Failure - as excruciating as it is, and perhaps not immediately - also somehow connects us to strength and wisdom, to meaning, and to values. It can help us draw lines in the sand with regard to what we will and will not accept, and it helps us recognise and name what is non-negotiable for us. …

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