The Making of Failure

The Making of Failure

A Story by Ipsum

A short essay response to "The Freedom to Fail"


After watching Michael Goodwin’s video on the Freedom to Fail, I recalled a reoccurring image of my childhood. My teacher would be sitting behind her desk, head shaking, while the air escaped her lips in a disapproving sigh. She would be scolding another student for “performing below expectations.” Looking back, those kinds of little episodes always deterred me from doing anything wrong. Naturally, it would. Scolding hurts, coupled with the “I’m disappointed in you” speeches that can make anyone, child or adult, squirm. It’s the pang one gets in their gut, the critical stare that practically screams, “You’re not good enough.”


Based on that, I find that it isn’t that we have lost the freedom to fail, nor is it that we have lost the means to succeed. Rather, we don’t have the freedom to embrace our failures. As people, we can’t expect to grow without accepting our shortcomings. Like looking at a wrong answer on a test and determining the correct one, doing better requires looking back and fixing our mistakes. Yet, in a society defined by accepted social standards, those that overstep the boundary of acceptability are punished.

We see it today as students single out the outcasts. We’ve seen it in the past when protesters in the South during the Civil Rights Movement were attacked because of the established principles of segregation.


In the end we perpetuate failure and its connotation. As a society that allows for actions such as social promotion, we can see how we constrict others from believing in the value of failure. We breed fear into others about failing, about becoming substandard in society. At the same time, we perpetuate punishment for not succeeding and in turn condition this fear into others.


Condensing this idea of being unable to embrace failure, I find that we as an American society have hurt ourselves by establishing only one dimension for success. At times we define the wealthy as successful. In other instances, we look at those who have more power as successful, those with more respect, more acclaim and fame. In reality, it all boils down to a single perception: success is defined in people that have more than we do. Be it money or prestige, those with more are seen as more successful.


Success in our time is defined by quantity, not quality. In that sense, the true threat to our freedom is the loss of the freedom to define success. Basing all failure off the idea of not having enough, we hinder others in discovering their own sense of achievement. We crush individual success before it can grow in favor of accomplishment defined by the society.

© 2011 Ipsum

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Added on March 27, 2011
Last Updated on March 27, 2011
Tags: failure, freedom, success, threat