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Bruce Peters


Failing Upwards

Posted On:14-Dec-2019/8:57 am

Failure can be a terrifying word. Just hearing the word can send a wave of fear through a person’s body. Even typing the word just now made my stomach lurch. But, why are we all so afraid of failure? We’ve been taught our whole lives that failing is exactly what we don’t want to do. During high school and college failing means starting again, missing out on amazing opportunities, and feeling inadequate. I believe that for most of us, even after high school and college, this nagging fear never really goes away. But, what if instead of fearing failure, we embrace it for what it should be – a motivational tool. By taking failure and reinventing it, we may find a way to fail upwards.

As I have mentioned before, during college, I minored in Creative Writing. Whenever somebody heard me say that, they tended to look worried for me – “what job can you get from that?”, they asked, or “That sounds risky”. They tended to be afraid that I would fail, and that spending time and money on an English Literature degree would be for naught. When I heard these kinds of responses, I tended to tell whoever would listen about the most helpful class I ever had during my years at college.

It was my final day of my final semester – my last class of college ever. I walked into the classroom prepared to hear a long lecture about how we can all make it in the real world and surviving life after college. However, as I walked in, I saw that terrifying word plastered across the whiteboard in big, black letters – “FAILURE”. The lecturer then started to discuss the likelihood of failing. She told us that failure in any industry is inevitable, especially careers in Literature. But she made sure not to let this dishearten us. She concluded the lecture with a quote that I still think about to this day: “Your worth as a person does not rely on the works you produce”. By this, I believe my lecturer meant that if you create something that isn’t well received, or “fails”, that doesn’t mean you are a failure, it just means you need to keep working.

Failure isn’t personal. If you fail at something your strived for, that doesn’t mean you are what’s wrong, but maybe how you approached it. The thing about failure is, it’s inevitable. Everybody will experience failure, whether it be small or momentous. But you can let it get you down. If you experience failure and take it personally, then you are just giving up. Instead, use it to motivate you for the future. If you create something that nobody enjoys, then take that criticism and that feeling of failure and push it into your next project. How will you utilize that failure for the future?

If you fail, then take that pain, that disappointment, and that anger and use those feelings to help plan your next goal. Didn’t get the job you applied for? Use that anger and keep applying. Did you try to create something, and it just didn’t work out? Keep trying and build something better. Use those emotions of failure and motivate yourself to fail upwards.


1 : Why are we all so afraid of failure? Don’t take it so personal!

2 : “Your worth as a person does not rely on the works you produce.”

3 : When you fail, use that pain, disappointment, and anger as motivation for your next goal.

Category:  Failure / Subcategory:  Embrace It

Tags: Fear, Disheartening, Personal, Giving Up, Pain, Disappointment, Anger, Feelings, Emotions, Goal, Criticism, Motivation

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Bruce Peters


“when did Failure become the F word?” - I like that. I will be stealing this saying - thanks D.C.

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Lisa Steffler


Bruce, I have never heard of failing upwards before. I like the concept. I agree, failure is a terrifying word because we are raised to believe that. I don't think of know of anyone who was raised to believe failure was your friend. Failing upwards is something I will introduce to my kids--I want to see the look on their faces. Thanks.

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Adaego M. Azi


Bruce, I like the idea of failing upwards. I am thinking that perhaps I have done that a few times in my life. D.C., I don't think I will ever be as confident as you are about failure. I don't go looking for failure, but if it happens it makes sense to use it as a motivation. Good job Bruce :-)

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D. C. Lawrence


Bruce, I like your logic. I used to have a prof who would always say, “when did Failure become the F word?”. I have had a very good relationship with failure for many years. I do not take failure personally and I think failure is part of learning and growing. I think the issue with failure is that too many people think of it as being permanent, or nothing else can happen after failure occurs-it’s almost like they see failure as a death. Interestingly enough, sometimes failure is exactly what you need, to start thinking about (or tackling) the problem from a different vantage point. Good read Bruce.