by Ayman Haydar,

I’ve been thinking a lot about failure recently. It’s hard not to when you look around at the damage brought about by COVID-19. You hear of businesses ‘failing’, when in reality it didn’t ‘fail’; it was the victim of changing circumstances that unfortunately no longer made the model viable. I guess ‘failure’ is just a snappier soundbite.

The same is true of people. For some reason failure has become both vilified and lauded as the key to self enlightenment and improvement. I think if you’re going to fail, fail upwards – it’s a great view when you do finally conquer whatever it is you’re trying to succeed at.

I wrote about my failures for #CampaignMiddleEast a while ago. The world may have changed since then, but my view is still the same, even in times like these. So, here goes: this is my tale of failure: the good, the bad and the goats. Let me know what you think.

“Let me tell you a story about how I ended up the poster child for failure. Ironically, it wasn’t failing that led me to appear in a starring role for the feature (pictured below) but simply a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. This picture was actually taken for something else, and despite the gawky teenager pose and cheeky expression, at this point in my youth I was actually fairly successful; captain of both the volleyball and football team, since you’re asking. Yet, when someone went digging through the archives to find, I’m assuming, any image of a child that would fit their ‘failure narrative’, they happened to land on me. And so, to everyone who read that article, failure had a face; my face. 

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A lesser person would be irritated, but of course I took the higher ground (sort of) and today the tale serves a bigger purpose; it serves as creative material for when I need to give advice myself. When I think about day-to-day life, we’re almost programmed to work towards a goal, whether that’s career oriented or monetary, probably all nurturing the same dream of the day we can sail off into the sunset on our private yacht. Personally, at 28, my aim was to have 100,000 AED to my name and raise goats in a village of pure calm and serenity … I’ll let you decide if that was actually a serious ambition of mine, but you get the idea – goals are good, however misguided a goat farm may appear at first glance. 

Where we’re going wrong is getting too comfortable with the goals we set ourselves. We’re not challenging things nearly enough, often settling for the easiest route to success and busy calculating how quickly we can get aboard that luxury cruiser. To my mind, we shouldn’t have an age for retirement in our sights, or ever be fully satisfied with our lot in life; we need that hunger as fuel.

The fear of failure every time we step out of our comfort zone is very real, but this shouldn’t send us running for the hills every time we’re confronted with something challenging. 

You try something, it doesn’t work out, fine. You stick around, rectify your error and show people that you can handle it. Looking at things from a different perspective shouldn’t be ignored either, whether you are the CEO or office junior; your own instinct, whilst valuable, isn’t always right. You have to do what’s best for the team and the company, which ultimately may mean personal failure. Tough love, I know, but this is coming from the boy who was used to illustrate failure… It’s given me a thick skin. 

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At the end of the day it comes down to how you view failure. When we were young, we could fail and learn to stand up again with zero fear. As adults, making mistakes is inevitable – we’re human after all, but this shouldn’t go on to influence or define how we handle things. Learn from your youth and approach failure in much the same way; don’t let a slip-up become a fatal flaw, and instead be as agile as you were as a child. Look, failure isn’t a bad word, it’s part of life. How we deal with it though, well, that’s a lesson we’ll never be done learning.”