Many of us have phases where we have no idea what we’re doing, or everything feels like it’s going wrong: that we are failing, or even that we are failures. Sometimes such phases feel less like phases than a permanent default. And often we assume – wrongly – that no one else ever feels the same.
This is an initiative intended to help make it OK to think and talk about failure. It includes five podcasts and a workbook. Find out more about the contributors, download the workbook, and give feedback at http://www.careers.ox.ac.uk/overcoming-failure/.
1 The Feeling of Failure
What does failure feel like, and what happens when you sit with it? This episode explores why it matters that we acknowledge our feelings of failure if and when they arise, not least in academia. We describe how this initiative came about, and provide a sequence of exercises that may help you investigate what you’re feeling and why, and what changes when you accept the feeling. We hear from contributors at many phases in their (outwardly highly successful) careers who have experienced objective and/or subjective failures and have developed varied ways of responding to them. Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales; http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/
2 Failure and Other People
Other people (or our idea of them) can induce feelings of failure and alleviate or transform them. Failure can be a very lonely feeling, but it’s always shaped by other people, whether positively or negatively. Our contributors share reflections on how easy it is to let yourself be trapped by others’ expectations, how pernicious comparison can be, and how it helps to talk honestly about all this. We offer suggestions for how to build failure-related conversations into your everyday life, as part of breaking down the more harmful elements of the public/private distinction. Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales; http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/
3 Failure and the Farewell to Academia.
Why does the idea of leaving academia so often feel like professional failure? The mere idea of leaving academia can feel like the greatest failure of them all. But the academic world need not be an unquestioned given: there are many other things you can do, and they are not less meaningful than doing academic research or teaching – and may not be as far removed from those activities as you imagine. We hear from people who work in academia or who left academic jobs to pursue careers outside the university, and ask why it’s so important that career change be a real and not an automatically devalued possibility. Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales; http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/
4 What to do About Failure: Personal Attitudes.
How to change your own attitudes to failure and success, and how failure relates to regret. This and the following episode offer more in-depth suggestions for how to put insights about failure into practice. Our contributors describe personal attitudes that may be helpful, like looking your failures right in the eye, or constructively doubting yourself, or adopting a distanced or curious stance on your own experiences, or acknowledging the importance of pretence and performance, or working out what is worth caring about. We explore the overlaps and the differences between failure and regret. Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales; http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/
5 What to do About Failure: Personal Actions.
How to take action to change the role failure plays in your life. In this episode we provide practical guidance on concrete failure-related steps that start with you: from writing your CV of failures to finding a mentor (or a mentee) and making and testing out an alternative career plan. We conclude with contributors’ answers to the question ‘what does failure mean to you?’. Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales; http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/