How To Fail – By @mazzystar81

By Mary Kerr


How To Fail

For my niece’s 7th birthday I sent my sister a parcel with some gifts including a pack of gems for Laila to stick on her face. It turns out they weren’t jewels for the face at all butt jewels. Who bejewels their butt? Apparently lots of girls. Luckily I’m not there for the debate about where jewels should and shouldn’t go but I do consider it a minor fail as an Aunt. Like the time I made cookies for my step daughter with salt instead of sugar. A minor fail, not enough to start saving for anyone’s therapy.

Anyway in celebration of failure I went to see my friend doing a talk at The Bridge Theatre today called “How To Fail” – also the name of her book and podcast series where she has done amazing interviews with people ranging from Phoebe Waller Bridge to Sebastian Faulks. 

The main message is that everyone fails. Failure is part of life but it’s how we respond to it that makes us who we are and how we grow. One person’s life changing failure may be another’s simple misstep. 

I’ve had some pretty epic fails in my life. From being asked to leave school at 16 for fear I would bring down the school’s overall grades to quitting University at 21. Then there are the more day to day work fails like mistyping an email for a big film company and watching epic chaos ensue to accidentally letting a baby slip off Santa’s lap when I was an elf.

Today, the actress being interviewed by Elizabeth on stage had chosen three fails to talk about. Her first was the gap in her teeth which had led her to being told at 10 years old that she would never get a job. She considered the gap in her teeth a fail which I don’t think many of us would see it as, but it was in the way she responded to it that made her stronger. It was a defining point in her life which could have gone either way but her mother and her walked out and it made her determined not to conform to what others decided was the ideal.

Her second fail was dancing for a broadway director who at first yelled at her in front of a room full of producers. As she was about to leave he said “Dance for me” as he put on a mix tape of ‘a journey through music’ he had made. She said it was a moment where her brain and body disconnected and as her mind ran out of of the room her body began to move. She wouldn’t do it now but at the time she didn’t feel she had a choice. To her this fail was what it took for her to learn about professional boundaries. 

Her third fail was about love. She felt that when her first relationship was over she had personally failed. Failed to be loveable enough. Failed to be attractive enough. Failed to be entertaining enough. I think we all feel like that when we are abandoned. Yet the lesson was that this kind of failure can also be seen as data acquisition. Teachings that are actually taking you closer to the thing that is for you. It’s can seem impossible to see at the time but you have to open up you hand and let relationships go in order for new ones to come in. It’s about faith.

These were her three chosen fails and to some they may not seem like typical stumbles through life. In the second half, Elizabeth took examples from people who had tweeted in what they considered fails. Many seemed to be about children. Women  feeling they had failed by not being able to have children or feeling they had failed as mothers if they had. Again it showed that failing is part of everyone’s journey, every day. How can we use failure to move forward? 

In terms of my own failures – I ended up staying at school and ended up getting 3 As. I just had to learn that I learnt differently to how I was being taught and to learn in a new way. I quit University to follow my dream of working in film. I’m so glad that I didn’t waste a year longer studying something because I thought I had to. When I messed up at the film company, I learnt to see in retrospect that I don’t have time to work for abusive egos who believe they are saving the world when actually they are just telling stories – professional boundaries. Letting the baby slip off Santa’s lap? … I suppose I learnt to be more vigilant when dressed up as a mythical creature and obey protocol that no one should sit on Santa’s lap anymore!

So that brings me to today where I try to see my daily fails as part of a journey. There are times when I can agonise over a past failure and go through what I could have done differently but I try to proactively think – what part did I have to play in it? If I did have a part, what can I do differently next time? If my brain is heavily berating me, am I being honest by believing it or am I just telling myself I’m shit because that used to be my go-to setting. We don’t need to listen to our brains. We aren’t our brains. Sometimes our brains like to tell us things that aren’t true and once we know this, to believe them is pointless. So with every book inspection for the next two months and beyond And every crit I go on, I hope to continue to see every fail as a chance to see what’s working, what’s not and to learn how to move forward to success. As for butt jewels – I think that’s a fail for everyone.

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