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Being Free to Fail - Podcast episode

Being Free to Fail

Failure is often viewed with a negative stigma and is something that students try to avoid. Failure should instead be viewed as an opportunity to improve and grow. Behind every successful student is a series of failures that they have reflected on and learnt from. It is important to define failure here. What is, or is not a failure is personal to you. Failure can mean getting below the pass mark on an assessment, but it can also mean getting a lower grade than you wanted (for example 60% and not 70%). Failure occurs outside of academic grades and is essentially when you don't get your intended result. 

Having a good relationship with failure and viewing it with a growth mindset as an opportunity will help you to grow, to take opportunities and to push boundaries. Failure occurs most often when we are challenged, and if we aren't challenged we won't develop. The key is to be willing to put yourself in positions where you can fail (or succeed) and then if you do fail to reflect and learn from that failure.

In the podcast I interviewed Dr David Robertshaw to discuss how failures have helped us to grow. We discuss how A-level results do not translate to future attainment, how failure is part of the journey, why students should shoot for the stars and how we can learn from failure. Here are the key highlights from the podcast. 

The first key highlight is that failure is part of the journey of a successful person. Successful people learn from their failures and use them to make their future successes. Past failures do not mean that you cannot be successful. Instead learn to persevere, reflect on failure and use failure as a foundation to build success.

The second key highlight from this episode is that prior attainment does not mean success or failure at university. If you found success in your A-levels, don't expect that you’ll just breeze through your degree. Make sure to put the effort in and continue to develop. If you did not do well in your A-levels, or if you're doing your first assignment and it's not gone well, you can still do well in the future. I know lots of people who either didn't do well in their A-levels before coming to university, and then, at the end of their degree, they came out with really strong grades. You can succeed if you reflect, have a growth mindset and put the effort in, rather than just relying on your past attainment, good or bad.

The final key highlight is to shoot for the stars. If you have a fixed mindset, you'll only do as well as you fix yourself to be. If, however, you aim high, you may just achieve that. You don't know what you're capable of until you try it. I know, for me, if I didn't aim high, I would have only achieved at best the 2:1 degree that I aimed for and wanted, and I definitely wouldn't be where I am now. 

I have interviewed two successful students who have spoken about learning from failure in this podcast series. Joel Boulter explained how he achieved a first class degree and a number of awards after getting two A-Levels, and Anisha Johal explained how she failed to get an internship, before reapplying for it the following year and receiving it after reflecting on her application and improving her skills and experience. These are two great examples of using failure as motivation to improve.