a note on failure

Last week was a big one. I heard back from the school of my dreams, and I got my final degree results and classification.

I did not get into the school. (Though they asked me to come back for a second interview, more on that later).

I did get a first in my degree.

Success is easier to swallow than failure. Sending out the ‘I got a first’ text was a lot easier than the ‘I got rejected from SCA’ one… A week in which I both got my first AND got into SCA would have certainly felt pretty stellar to me.

But I guess, what I want to reflect on, is what we actually gain from success v. failure.

It is worth mentioning, to start with, that getting 75% in my degree was the result of 3 years worth of incredibly hard work, unwavering passion, and emotional and academic support from tutors, friends and family, whereas the rejection from SCA was off the back of a disaster of an interview day for which I did not work hard enough, did not take the risks I needed to, and did not show enough of the passion I have on the inside on the outside. Plus, my degree was mostly written work, at which I excel, and the interview was, well, an interview – in which I ALWAYS, categorically, underperform. So I guess what I’m trying to say is both the ‘success’ and the ‘failure’ of the week were very much deserved.

The success I feel at achieving a first has taught me a handful of things:

  • hard work pays off.
  • passion is key.
  • never stop working on something, even when you think you’ve fucked it.
  • don’t be afraid of asking for help.
  • (I also know a lot about modern art…)

The failure I feel from not getting into SCA first try has taught me about a million:

  • sometimes simplicity is brave, and sometimes it’s just not enough.
  • never be afraid to express how much you want something.
  • be prepared to fight, and work, for what you want.
  • believing you can do something, and proving you can do something, are two different things.
  • being yourself is not as simple as people say it is – it is a skill you need to practice.
  • comparing yourself to others will not make them any worse or you any better.
  • learning from others, however, is something you should learn to do humbly.
  • always take risks. you might regret it if it goes wrong, but you’ll definitely regret it if it goes wrong anyway and you know you could have been braver.
  • etc.


Both sets of lessons are incredibly valuble. But I could have totally missed out on the second set by believing “SCA wasn’t right for me,” “they’re a bunch of entitled assholes who didn’t get me,” even just thinking “I should have succeeded,” rather than recognising that I didn’t do enough to deserve success. It’s easy to learn from success, because the proof is in the pudding, but it’s much harder to learn from failure, because it hurts to dwell on a wound.

So my point is, I guess, if you are willing, you can learn more from your failures than you do from your successes.

Other people have put it a lot more eloquently:

“Failure is instructive. The person who really thinks learns quite as much from his failures as from his successes.” ― John Dewey

“How much you can learn when you fail determines how far you will go into achieving your goals.” ― Roy Bennett

“Great losses are great lessons.” ― Amit Kalantri

In the fear that this sounds preachy, I’d like to add that I believe this is the first time in my life I’ve stepped back from a failure and really seen it as an opportunity. In the past, I’ve had a habit of dropping everything when I fail and zooming full steam ahead onto something new. I have had a great conviction that what I’ve learned from failure is that I’m ‘barking up the wrong tree’ and should try something else that I won’t fail at. What this has always led to, unsuprisingly now I sit and think about it, is a shit-ton of failures. If I’d stuck at it and learned after failing – ‘it’ being various life choices re school and uni, hobbies, career paths, relationships – I would probably have gone on to succeed, rather than going on to fall at the next hurdle I’d swung toward.

I am a big believer in the universe though, and that everything happens for a reason, so I think I’ve realised this right now because this is the thing I’m meant to stick at. Luckily for me, the dean at the school agreed that I hadn’t met my potential on the day and has offered me a second interview. Therefore I have another chance right in front of me. Another chance to succeed, another chance to fail. A chance to put this preachy blog post into practice!


Cross your fingers for me.



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