Try Again. Fail again. Fail Better.


Posted by Wafa K. | Posted on January 24, 2010

Love the moment. Flowers grow out of dark moments. Therefore, each moment is vital. It affects the whole. Life is a succession of such moments and to live each, is to succeed.
-Corita Kent

The students of Hopkins Interactive constantly attempt to effectively show prospective students what it is actually like to be a Hopkins student. This usually means conversing about a social life, extracurricular activities, resources, advising, the city of Baltimore, research, majors, etc, but we don’t often talk about grading. Perhaps this is because grades are regarded as personal matters and the work that each student at Hopkins puts in to get a specific grade is unique to that student.

Despite this, and the initial reservations I had about discussing this topic, I’d like to discuss failure. And to qualify what I mean: the nature of the failure I am referring to is somewhere betwMichael_jordan014een what an excellent high school student will consider failure (i.e. a B-) and actual failure (i.e. a F). Most students that apply to and are accepted by Hopkins have a completely skewed scale of what is passing and failing which is encouraged by their position as among the brightest students in their respective high schools, and as such they are completely and utterly unprepared the first time they do not receive a near perfect mark for an exam/paper/etc.

This shock always befuddled me because you would assume coming to a school as rigorous as Hopkins with the reputation that it has, students would mentally prepare themselves to not do as well as they had done during high school. That would be the point. That this is college and not high school. There is supposed to be a drastic difference between the two. This is a place that is going to challenge you and that is what makes it so fantastic. Picking Hopkins as the college of choice is indicative of a 05c_Degas_-_Ballerina_di_14_anni,_1881passion for academics, intellectual curiosity and self-motivation, and with attributes such as these, it would be safe to assume that our students do not come in believing that a Hopkins education will be easy, in any definition of the word.

As a Hopkins student, you will get bad grades on exams and/or papers. And probably more than once.  And that, surprisingly enough, is okay. Failure is just as important in success in the experience that Hopkins, and college in general, offers. Failure is a part of life. If you aspire to be a surgeon, you will lose patients. If you want to become an engineer, some of your proposed projects will be denied. If you aspire to become a lawyer, you will lose cases. If art is your passion, there will be a time where a piece of art does not sell despite your best intention. If an  individual does not learn to deal with failure when it comes in the form of a D on a physics exam, them imagine the shock the first time they Albert-einstein misdiagnose a patient or a jury decides against them.

Failure is an essential part of existence. The whole mantra of getting back on the horse is applicable in small and grandiose situations and it is a habit that must be learned early. College and academics is not only about learning material, it is, as trite as this may sound, learning how to be a competent human being. The title of this blog finds it origins in a Samuel Beckett quotations: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better” and it is a thought that should be taken to heart. Failure is acceptable because it is a stepping stone. Learn how to fail now and learn from shortcomings because improvement is of utmost importance. Further, I think that a state of mind is exceedingly important when beginning your college career. The assumption that the four years will be filled with high and low points and a continuously altering circumstance is one that will be beneficial to taking advantage of everything this opportunity offers.

And at the end of the day, that is all we can ask for.


The pictures in these blogs represent some of the most beautiful failures: Michael Jordan who was cut from his high school basketball team for his “lack of skill;” Edgar Degas, a famous painter, held a sculpture show that was so poorly received by critics he never publicly showed his sculptures again and when he died 150 of them were found in his workshop and are now considered some of his best artist works; Albert Einstein whose grades were so poor that a teacher suggested he quit and told him, “Einstein, you’ll never amount to anything!”

3 Responses to “Try Again. Fail again. Fail Better.”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Love the post… sounds very honest and true. Looking forward to my first failure ;)

  2. JHU_Jessica Says:

    Great post Wafa. Seriously, I don’t think you’ll ever fail at blog posting. :-)

  3. Laura Perazzoli Says:

    Wafa–this is a GREAT post. You totally capture students coming to Hopkins, the horror of the first bad grade annnd that it’s really okay. And I love the beckett quote =)