Recently I had an interesting Twitter conversation with Martin (@universityboy) from The University Blog about failure and underperforming. It began with a question from his side ‘What is better: to underperform or to fail’?
I responded with failure. Why? Because I see failure as a slap in the face. Like when you are studying for a whole year with 4 tests in it. When you are underperforming you got a C three times and the third time you will start to think ‘what do I do wrong?’ or something similiar. With failure adversely, you will get a big fat slap in the face. ‘A F? Dude, I need to do something about my studying!’ So this will give you a slap right away and you will start to change what you do until it works for you.
This slap is better, because you will change right away. You have an urge to do things different than before and especially to do them better. So that first F will mean three A’s the rest of the year probably, because you have to work really hard to still pass.
When a slap becomes a fight
The only problem with failure (and underperformance as well) is that you need to acknowledge that you are the one who did something completely wrong. And that is not so likely to happen. Failure will mean denial in most cases. Failure will evoke reactions like ‘that wasn’t my fault’ or ‘the teacher just didn’t understand me’. That is the point where the failure who slaps you in the face will get slapped back by you. And from that point on, you and the failure will have a little bitchfight. You will keep failing and you will stay in denial. So your failure doesn’t start an improvement, but an underperformance, a big permanent underperformance.
How to handle failure
When you fail big time, enjoy it big time also. Wow, you actually have the chance to evaluate something you’ve screwed up! What did you do wrong, why and when? How should you do this the next time. Opportunities everywhere. You just have to face that the failure is completely YOUR fault. Nobody but you made the mistake to start studying really late, nobody else enjoyed a videogame but you! Now evaluate, write down what went wrong, but also write down what did go well, so you can see that you’ve actually did something good!
Underperformance or failure, it doesn’t make that big of a difference, was the conclusion of my talk with Martin. What is important is how you handle it. Do not deny your mistakes, do not deny that you are the one who screwed up. You just need to embrace your mistake and start learning from it. That is where you become a successful student.
Read Martin’s part right here! And share your opinion with both of us in the comments or through Twitter (@StefanSSF and @universityboy)
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