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Failing Forward

Inspirational words from Prefect and Tennis Captain Zoe (Year 11), on failing your way to success.

On the weekend, out of curiosity, I looked up the definition of the word failure, and I was shocked at what I read. The Oxford Dictionary defines failure as ‘a lack of success’. Boy, have they got this wrong. Today I’d like to redefine or reassess how we understand failure.

I think that a fear of failure and of consequent embarrassment is what all too often governs our daily decisions. We often opt out of trying new things due to the paralysing belief that we could fail. And if we do try something new and we do fail, we become embarrassed and never ever want to try that thing again. Well, it’s time to look at failure in a new light. To do this, I’d like to tell you a story.

When I was in Year 2, every day at lunchtime, my friends and I would swing on the swing set. One day, I thought it would be awesome if I showed off a new trick and didn’t hang on while I swung! As I’m sure you can imagine, it did not end well. As a teacher was helping me down, all I could think was that I was never ever getting back on those swings ever again.

The next day I was faced with a choice: do I let the embarrassment get the best of me, sit back, and miss out? Or do I have another go to prove to my friends and more importantly to myself that I can try a new trick? You guessed it; I got back on.

So, Wenona, it’s time to flip the narrative. The Oxford Dictionary has it all wrong, failure is not a ‘lack of success;’ it is not fuel for embarrassment. It is an opportunity to have another go, a motivation to improve, and as in the words of Michael Jordan: ‘the key to success is failure’.

So, if you’ve ever experienced a so-called failure such as dangling by your feet in front of your entire year, I challenge you to put your hand in and have another go because after all, a failure is just a motivation to do it better the next time round.


Prefect and Tennis Captain