Ha-Ha, You Failed!

(although this is specifically directed at one friend of mine for failing their driving test, this is relevant for you, whenever you suck at anything)

Yes, your failure is funny. You’re flawed, imperfect and specifically inadequate – you’re not just bad at a thing, but you’re not good enough. You know what this means, right? That people are expected to be good enough, and you’re not. And I’m not gonna sympathise with you – you failed, you know it, and I’m sure the last thing you want is some pretentious bastard on the internet who thinks he’s a critic because he wrote a poorly-researched blog post about King Lear telling you how you were that close to succeeding. You weren’t. You failed. End of.

However, don’t be discouraged (if you’ve not broken down in tears yet at my blunt introduction), as the ability to fail and improve is, I would argue, the greatest human quality; we’re gonna have about eighty years in this life to get stuff right, so don’t stress if seventeen-year-old you can’t get a driver’s license just this second. Failure is good because it lets us improve, and in both vague and specific ways. Specific improvement is obvious – if you fail a history test because you can’t remember the date of a particular war or bill, go away and learn that date, and you’ll have improved.

Improving on specific failure is easy: you just have to learn a fact or date, and you can do it yourself in relatively little time, simply by reading a textbook or making a few lines of notes on a topic, depending on how many specific failures you racked up. Specific failures do not suggest there is a fundamental problem with your intelligence or means of revision and study, so take these failures lightly: getting six out of ten in a test shows that you know six of the things, so just apply whatever strategies you used to learn those six to the other four.

Vague failures are, sadly, more serious; these are issues that emerge after several pieces of work, and often reflect a recurring fault – if you’re getting 40% on every essay you write, it would suggest there is a more fundamental problem in your writing that you can’t fix by just increasing the length of time you spend revising, or the breadth of topics you revise.

To solve these problems, you’ll likely have to rethink how you work, not just what you do within your working periods. This can be relatively simple, like trying a new essay structure, or a radical overhaul of your studying methods, like spraying each chapter of a textbook with a different scent, and then trying to do pop quizzes and short answer questions based on smell alone, a tip I picked up off Yu-Gi-Oh The Abridged Series, which I’m currently marathoning for the fourth time.

The most important way to improve, however, is to correctly identify which type of failure you are dealing with; in Year 10, I dismissed all of my problems as specific ones, partly out of a growing laziness and realisation that solving vague problems requires more effort than solving specific ones, and so just worked a bit harder in the same flawed ways. Yeah, I ended up resitting all of my Year 10 exams the next year.

Also, don’t be intimidated by the identification you make; if you have vague problems you need to address, just deal with them now; it’s a lot easier in the long run to spend two weeks experimenting with working methods and patterns to see what works than plugging away with a flawed method because you’re lazy – hard work alone can’t solve everything, so sometimes you will have to restructure your working habits.

It’s important to not be swayed by other people here to: my best method of working is to spend four hours copying out of a textbook, and when I tell people this, they immediately try it and literally die from sleep deprivation and exhaustion. If you have a good sense of smell, by all means try the textbook-spraying idea, whatever the Hell works for you; ultimately, no-one cares how you memorise an entire Century’s worth of wars, social reforms and important figures, as long as you learn it. As long as you don’t cheat, which isn’t allowed for some reason.

Your failure is funny, fundamentally because it helps others get over their, inherently human, inferiority complex; we all assume we suck, and so seeing another fail makes us feel better. However, a failure is just a means to allow self-improvement; there are others, but nothing motivates a person to do some damn work than getting laughed at by a teacher for failing a vocab test. It’s fundamentally better to work effectively for a short period of time than inefficiently for a longer one, so identify the way in which you’ve failed, and either change your means of work, or just work more, whatever’s needed to ensure that the next time there’s an epic fail, you’ll be the one laughing.

Also, dude, failing your driving test isn’t the end of the world; getting a Big Mac out of a drive-thru gets old faster than the initial coolness of being able to write in coloured pens in Geography lessons.


Yu-Gi-Oh The Abridged Series (“It stays crunchy, even in milk!”)


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