Opinion: Failure Is An Option


Contributed by Daryl Goh (@dargoyaki)

To some people, the idea of failure is frightful. That feeling of rejection as the fruits of your labour fail to come to fruition. Failure is something that a lot of us are afraid to face, and it proves to be a stumbling block for most when it comes to chasing things outside of their comfort zone.

Too often I see people too afraid to fail that they don’t start in the first place. Somehow, we’ve come to internalise that failure is no longer an option under ALL circumstances. But truthfully, growing up, we’ve always been failing. When you were a kid, the concept of failure never bothered you. You fell, but you got back up again. That’s how we learned how to walk.

If there’s something I’ve learnt, you don’t take anything away from not trying, but failing allows you to know what may not work for you, and it’ll also allow you to identify the mistakes you made so that you know what to eradicate in the future.

Here are some reasons why failure could be good for you.

person standing near the cliff of the mountain

Image: Luca Baggio — Unsplash


For the students and young adults that are trying to find their direction in life, failing is a great way to do that. What do I mean by this? Failing or not succeeding at something allows you to realise what you’re good at and what sticks. Too often while discovering what we want to do we fall into the trap of shiny object syndrome. Too often we find something new to do and think to ourselves, that this must be it, before dropping it for something else once it becomes less interesting or starts getting tough. It might get tiring when this supposed failure at finding out what you want to do is prolonged, but this failure is key at helping you with knowing what you probably do not want to do in the future. Eventually, the multitude of failures would likely lead you down to finding something that sticks a little longer than usual, and that’s when you know what you’ll want to be doing in the near future.

top view photography of broken ceramic plate

Image: Chuttersnap — Unsplash

You’ll regret not trying more than you’ll regret failing

The most common regret most old people had before dying was that they did not live a life true to themselves, rather they lived a life of what was expected of them. I know a bunch of people that have a fear of failure because they’d wonder – what would other people think about them? What if it doesn’t pan out and I lose all that time? We tend to stick to patterns of familiarity and comfort. Putting yourself in a place of potential failure can sometimes be outside our comfort zone, because relative success is mostly outside our realm of control.

Because of that lack of control on the outcome, we get that anxiety of failure, afraid that things won’t pan out well. But if we always stick to patterns of comfort and never take a step outside our comfort zone, we may never tap on or try pursuing dreams that we’ve always had. Starting a business, picking a creative career that’s outside our realm of understanding, creating a food blog.

At the end, you’ll be glad that you at least had a go at it even if it fails, rather than never trying at all. And if you’re afraid of what other people might think of you if you tried something different, I think it’s good to know that other people don’t care about you as much as they do. And I mean that in the best way possible.

In most cases, everyone’s the protagonist of their own lives – if you think that everyone has eyes on what you’re doing al the time, just remember that they might think the same way for themselves too. Most people would be too caught up in that mindset to really care about you. And once you realise this, you’ll feel much more liberated and willing to try new things, because in the grand scheme of things, it really doesn’t matter what other people might think of you in that short moment. Ultimately, it’s your life, not theirs. As Nike says, Just Do It.

Failure Builds Resilience And Opportunity For Growth

I personally believe that a lot of people I know, have not really failed in their lives before. It’s why it hits particularly hard when they experience their form of subjective failure for the first time.

For a lot of students in NUS, it’s like when you get that B or C for the first time, when throughout your life you’ve always achieved stellar grades from PSLE, to O Levels to A Levels. It’s shocking, because it’s an incident that’s outside your realm of reality. And although it may sound ludicrous, it’s perfectly understandable. Our life experiences drastically dictate the reality we have in our minds and how we view life. For people who grew up never ‘failing’, failure was never an option.

But for those that have experienced the numerous failures in the past, we understand that failure indicates room for growth. In my opinion, it ultimately moves you forward in your personal development a lot more than success would. As you fail more and more and succeed in bouncing back from it, you’re not held back by that fear anymore. If anything, you become more stubborn to prove to yourself that you can do it and succeed in the end. You’ll come to realise that failing is not the end of the world. It’s not entirely harmless, but it doesn’t mean that your entire life is going to go down the drain from not securing an A on a module.

When you internalise the idea that there’s always a way to bounce back from setbacks, you’ll build a resilience to failing that’ll make you feel unstoppable, no matter what you face.

Footprint on lunar regolith

Image: NASA — Unsplash

Failure Is Not Your Enemy

In conclusion, be courageous and trust in yourself a little more. Once you rewire your perception of failure, you’ll come to see the good that comes out of it. It gives you a direction to work towards, it builds your resilience, and it’ll help guide you to a life that you want to live in the future.

You might have heard of the saying ‘Failure Is Not An Option’, a phrase associated with astronaut Gene Krenz on the Apollo 13 mission, where a successful recovery was made on a doomed space flight with 3 lives at stake. Well, the thing is, not all of us are astronauts on a perilous journey to the moon. Sometimes, failure is an option.

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A young Singaporean concerned about issues workers face. As humans, we spend a third of our lives sleeping and recharging, and another third for our personal life, and the last third at work (based on a 24-hr distribution). That's why we should pay attention to issues surrounding work.