Befriending Failure

Dedicated to Jing Jing in gratitude for the conversation that sparked this post.

We make mistakes. Big ones, small ones. We often do badly for various things. An exam, an important relationship, our work… there are dozens of areas we can screw up in. And as the sorry human fumblers we are, we often do just that. Screw up. There’s no doubt that we fail. The question is, what do we do once the deed has been done?

As Rafiki from Disney’s The Lion King puts it, “You can either run away from it, or you can learn from it.”


Never underestimate the human psyche’s capacity for denial, laying blame, and repression. We do this to our detriment even in things as mundane as our academic pursuits.

Say one does badly for an exam. What do most people do? It may vary, but there’s usually blame…whether self-blame (I didn’t study well enough) or other-blame (the test/marking is unfair). Then there’s depression, maybe some sulking. Then what happens? We try to ‘shake it off’, forget about that failure and move on. We determine to try harder next time. But more often than not, we find ourselves in the very same place some time later. Why? Cos really, we run. We don’t like dwelling in the pain of our failure, and we try to leave that uncomfortable place as soon as possible.

But as long as we keep running, we will never see where we’re going. We’re too busy fleeing to take stock of our environment. We don’t change our behaviour. We end up running into the same bothersome walls. We go on perpetuating our self-destructive behaviour and yet we moan about how difficult life is. More often than not, we are the creators of our own misery.

… or Learn?

To learn means to lose our fear of failure. Indeed, to learn requires us to treat our failures as a kind friend that is helping to point out our weaknesses so that we can improve on them.

I’ve always learned more from my failures than my successes. When I do well in any area of my life, things go smoothly and I don’t always know what it is that I’m doing right. Sometimes it may be that I’m just coasting on luck, and I take the smooth ride for granted, never growing, never improving. But when I do badly and the sh*t hits the fan, I get a strong indication that there may be something wrong with the way I’m doing things. And more often than not, I have become better because of my failures rather than in spite of them.

The road goes ever on. :)

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