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Failure: A Philosophical Analysis

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 Kids, you tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is: never try. (Homer Simpson) I’m like most people: I spend a long time thinking that I am a failure. I see others posting updates online about personal triumphs and successes, and I feel like I don’t measure up. I’m not as successful as they are. I haven’t achieved as much. I have failed at work and failed at life. How can I do better? I know that I am not alone in these feelings. As best I can tell, most people struggle with perceptions of failure from time to time. There is, now, an entire industry of books, events and podcasts dedicated to helping people cope with failure. The common strategy seems to be to encourage some kind of reframing. Don’t see failure as a sign of your inadequacy but, rather, an opportunity for growth. For example, Elizabeth Day’s How to Fail Podcast (and related book) takes this approach. As she describes it herself, the purpose is to interview people about their failures and see what these failures “taught them about how to succeed better”. In a similar vein, for many years, Silicon Valley startup founders participated in the now-defunct (?) FailCon, an annual conference celebrating failures in business and what can be learned from them. The message seems to have been: fail fast, learn and then pivot to something better. Other efforts are afoot trying to normalise failure. For example, in academia, there was something of a fetish for ‘CVs of failure’ a few years back. The craze was started by Melanie Stefan with an article in the journal Nature. Stefan encouraged academics to keep a record of their failures in order to help others with their setbacks. The craze really took off when Johannes Haushofer publicly posted his own CV of failures, listing all the jobs he failed to get, grants he failed to win, and papers he failed to publish. For some reason his CV went viral and the idea grew legs. More and more people starting compiling lists of their own. . .

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News source: Philosophical Disquisitions

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