Being Open About Failure

This past week in HONOR 401, our class had the opportunity to visit the 3 Dots space in downtown State College. I really appreciated the change of setting, and I think it allowed for more creative and open thinking. Like our speaker, Spud Marshall, said to us in class, many of the deepest and most enlightening conversations happen in spaces that aren’t the conventional classroom. I never really thought about how much the atmosphere of any location – the feeling of comfort vs. discomfort – can really influence the thought process and free-flowing conversation that results.

What I really wanted to write about in this post, however, was Spud Marshall’s openness when he talked about the successes and failures of his various projects. As someone who has been involved in so many different endeavors, Spud easily could have chosen to only focus on those that had become successes and we would not have known the difference. However, his candidness about things that didn’t go as he had planned made his success all the more impressive, and made me trust him more as a speaker. I knew that he wouldn’t inflate his achievements, and that he wasn’t afraid to admit when mistakes were made.

I think this openness about failure is something that I need to embrace more in my life. I’ve always been far too concerned with what people think about me, and that fact became way more apparent when I came to college and had to start comparing myself to my peers in terms of classes, work, major, internships, jobs, etc. This sense of competition was definitely a form of motivation, but it also came with this insatiable need to make sure that other people were impressed by what I was doing. I felt insecure about my major and wanted to make up for it by explaining the difficulty of my individual classes. I wanted people to know when I got internship offers or other achievements because I based my personal success off of what other people saw in me.

It’s been a process to realize that the only person that I really need to care about impressing is myself, because ultimately, we are all going to go down our own paths and stop caring so much about what everyone around us is doing. I need to be more open about the failures that I’ve had and the stress that I’ve gone through, because it’s a more accurate representation of myself and I shouldn’t need to worry about what other people think about my successes and my failures. Spud’s candidness only impressed me more, and it really inspired me to commit myself to being honest in the same way, both with myself and with others.

It is foolish to think that any person is going to get through life without some major failures here and there. We grow from them, and we are better because of them. Why shouldn’t we be honest about that?