Failure as an option

Sophia (rightmost, standing) with her new friends at The Failure School, including their main facilitator Phil Smithson.

We usually look for ways to make our children’s summer vacations or weekends enjoyable and productive. Some go out of town or out of the country. Some go to the mall or binge-watch their favorite shows. My 17-year-old daughter Sophia watched a lot of Netflix – and attended a workshop at The Failure School.

The Failure What, you ask. Yes there is such a thing.

Parents would do anything to guarantee their children’s success, and happiness. We want the best for them. We want, as much as possible, to shield them from harm, hurt, hardship and heartbreak. If we had our way, they would breeze through life with all things positive.

Inadvertently, we raise them to be terrified to fail. What bad press failure enjoys!


The first time I mentioned The Failure School to Sophia, just before I signed her up, she said she felt offended.

“My mom thinks I am a failure,” she remembers thinking.

After going through the entire workshop, she now suggests the organizers keep the name “because it is so catchy.”

She remembers her first day at the workshop, meeting their facilitator Phil Smithson and other participants. “They looked younger than I am, but that’s okay, too.” She wondered what was in store for the next few weeks.

She soon found out why the word “failure” need not evoke negative sentiments. “My favorite part was learning how to give and receive criticism.” It did sound difficult – “this is my hard work, and then you’re going to rip it off?” But they were taught to think of critiquing in a different way. “Basically you don’t really do it to hurt other people, so you focus on three things: What I Like, What I Wish, and What Can be Improved.”

Most importantly, she learned the importance of empathy – putting yourself in other people’s shoes, so you can see where they are coming from and perhaps offer some advice on solving their problems.

She feels she wants more. “There were many instances I wanted to stay longer for more activities, more realizations.” More time to fail? “That, too!”

It’s okay to fail, because this will make success more meaningful. So who’s afraid, now?


All of us will fail, at some point, in our life. There will be a dream we will not achieve. We will make some unenlightened decisions and pull some silly stunts. There will be people who will say we are not good enough, however hard we try. There will be an idea we think is great – but nobody will agree. There will be plenty of times we will doubt ourselves.

And all these will push us to think harder, to do better, to know how to not fail, next time.

The earlier we tell our children that it is okay to fail so long as they learn something from it, the better we can prepare them for the difficult but nonetheless rich and exhilirating journey called life.


Sign up at The Failure School and see how much fun it is having sooo many post-it notes in a room. If you're lucky, Phil may even teach you how to juggle!

The next workshop will begin August 19. Tickets available at…/the-failure-school-august-19th


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