Share the failure… success?

Since Fuckup Nights originated in 2012, our messages have always been the same: “failure sucks but instructs” & “share the failure.”

In 10 years, we have shed light on thousands of failures and placed them under the spotlight and on stages around the globe; so that people know the B-side of the professional world. What they don’t tell us in movies and books. Because a lot has already been said about success.

It’s not that we are fans of failure. As we said, failure, apart from teaching, sucks. It is uncomfortable but inevitable, hence the importance of putting it on the table; it’s part of our human experience. We could even say that it doesn’t always come with a lesson. Sometimes we just fail; there’s nothing to learn. Maybe just how to get used to and deal with it.

In our events, we avoid closing our talks with success stories; we don’t go into little depth because that’s not our focus or our aim. You learn more from failure… right?

In our first decade of life, we wanted to explore this possibility. Is it also worth only sharing the success? Do we learn from it as much as we learn from failure?

The narrative of success

 

Success plays a relevant role in our lives. It represents hope, the reward for our efforts. After all, every task or journey we start has a purpose, and setting goals and objectives helps us stay on track.

Although we don’t notice it most of the time, many of the success stories we are told do mention failure. Every narrative has conflict, and failure makes success look more heroic when achieved.

However, in the academic and professional world, we tend to focus more on outcomes than processes. And when we share success stories, we tend to skip important aspects of the story. What about setbacks, how were they solved, and what would we have done differently to avoid them?

In the narrative of success, it’s crucial to detail the process rather than the final result, to give value to the aspects that made us grow as professionals and the valuable knowledge that the rocky process left us with. And above all, share responsibly, avoiding “magic formulas for success.”

Biases and responsibility

Within every narrative, there must be accountability from both sides. The ones who share a story and the ones who listen to it.

Our communication process involves personal biases and interpretations that can distort our reality and expectations of our journey.

Self-interest bias is a common phenomenon when we tell a success story. We often attribute our failures to external situations and factors; rather than our own decisions or attitudes. On the other hand, we associate success with our merits, abilities, and values, excluding external situations that also interfere.

Even if we are successful, it’s essential to reflect on what things led us to achieve it: Was it only because of my abilities? What external situations influenced us for better or for worse?

On the other side of communication, when we decide to embark on or pursue a goal, we tend to experience survivor bias. We often focus on success stories that worked, ignoring those that failed.

You probably know someone who started their business because they heard of an extraordinary success story; or because they heard that it’s a good idea to start a business in a specific industry. In those cases, we go for the most encouraging scenario and leave aside other rational and objective factors.

This is why responsibility is essential when we share our experiences and listen to others. Replicating successful models should always be done with caution.

Expectations

When we hear success stories, it’s easy to grow our expectations of ourselves from them. Unless you are pessimistic, this is not the case with failure stories.

Expectations are simply thoughts and beliefs about what will happen. However, the reality may turn out to be different. This disparity between expectation and reality can be harsh, generate unhappiness and stress and exaggerate how we see and fear failure.

It’s fundamental, as consumers of success stories, to evaluate our expectations from time to time to be more careful about what they generate:

Question your expectations: Where do they come from? Are they realistic? When your expectations are compromised, analyze if they were in the first place.

Practice gratitude: When our expectations are not met, exercising gratitude makes us appreciate the good we have and generate positive feelings and a better attitude.

Don’t make comparisons: Although it may seem like everyone is successful, people tend to omit the complicated parts. Don’t compare yourself. Success (and failure) look different for each of us.

It’s normal to experience disappointments as a result of our expectations. And as much as we carefully select what we listen to and where we get our inspiration, we should recognize our emotions and value what makes us happy from the beginning.

Generally, we assimilate positive experiences differently than negative ones. These require more mental processes, and the information is treated more thoroughly than the positive ones. We believe listening to other people’s stories of failure is a safe way to experience and learn from them. Doing it without value judgments and using humor becomes an even more nurturing experience. 

Although success stories omit the vulnerability factor and sometimes appeal to the personal ego…

No, it’s not a bad idea to share success stories. It’s valuable if done with transparency and responsibility. It can exercise our resilience, help us set goals, and have control over our expectations. However, we stick with the path of failure. After all, it’s for rock stars to fall with style and learn in the process, isn’t it?

Edited by Santiago da Silva
Rich

Rich

Newsletter & content

Content & typos creator. Rich runs Fuckup Nights blog & newsletter. He probably posted this blog by himself, and thinks it’s awkward to write his own bio. Fuckuppin’s mom.

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