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Op-Ed: We Need to Normalize Failure but Preferably Not My Failure Right Now


Photo by Pixabay / CC0

During my time here at Penn, I have become familiar with a very frustrating phrase, “I would kill for an A.”  Can you imagine, a community so disdainful and scared of failure that we would even joke about killing for a good grade? We are a community of over-achievers who have - by way of our obsessive neuroses, which push us to achieve perfection in every aspect of our lives - developed a fear of failure.  This misguided view of setbacks needs to end. I will be the first to embrace failure, right after I crush my math 114 mid-term on Thursday.

To truly find success in life one must fail, and then learn from those mistakes.  As a community, we need to change our culture around failure and start appreciating the learning opportunity that failure gives us. That being said, I’d prefer if I could learn this lesson after my math mid-term because, like, that is not something I could come back from, and fair warning, if I fail my math test I’m going to have a breakdown. 

That’s right, I said it, I think our community needs to begin celebrating failure. I for one am so excited to see what temporary setbacks lead to bounding leaps forward in my life. But again, just not this week because I need this internship in Boston over the summer that requires I get at least a B in calc.  

I understand more than anyone how scary failure can seem, but I think it’s important to recognize how many successful people have had major failures in their lives.  Did you know Walt Disney was fired from the Kansas City Star for lacking imagination? Wow, look where he ended up! On the other hand, my brother’s friend got the internship I want two summers ago, and now he works at Goldman Sachs, so, he ended up in a pretty good place too. Amazing. 

Overall, I think it's necessary that we all work to rid our community of this toxic perfectionist culture. I’m hoping failure hits me soon so I can really get my life started, just not SOON soon. So here’s to failure! I hope others will follow my lead.