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Re-envisioning Failure

Ikeda Center

Photo by Vernonwiley/Getty Images.


by Mitch Bogen
Special to the Tribune

Is failure really something to be feared? What is the relationship between success and failure?

This task of re-envisioning failure was at the heart of the Dialogue Nights event, held on Jan. 25 at the Ikeda Center for Peace, Learning, and Dialogue in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Themed “Failing Forward: Make Your 2019 Resolutions Stick,” it was the first Dialogue Nights of 2019, and the 10th overall.

The Ikeda Center hosted university students
and young professionals to discuss a positive approach to the concept of failure, Cambridge, Mass., Jan. 25.

In welcoming the more than 50 Boston-area university students and young professionals in attendance, Ikeda Center Program Manager Lillian I shared a quote from SGI President Ikeda, which pointed to the power of confronting failure: “People tend to grow fearful when they taste failure, face a daunting challenge or fall ill. Yet that is precisely the time to become even bolder. Those who are victors at heart are the greatest of all champions” (Buddhism Day by Day, p. 324).

With this thought in mind, participants gathered in a series of dialogical activities aimed at deconstructing our assumptions about failure and inspiring everyone to take more risks in the future.

Sometimes our failures encourage us to reach out to others, for support and in compassionate solidarity.

Key topics were why we fear failure and whether failure can have positive dimensions. Put simply, suggested one attendee, we fear failure because it makes us feel bad. Failure also tempts us to compare ourselves with others and fear their opinions of us, a source of nearly endless anxiety and crippling doubt.

Yet, when we think it through, said participants, the positive dimensions are clear. The flip side of fearing what others think is that sometimes our failures encourage us to reach out to others, for support and in compassionate solidarity. The other main benefit is learning about yourself. We can learn what we’re good at, what we value or what it truly takes for us to grow.

To conclude, everyone paired up to reflect on what they learned during the openhearted dialogues and, thus encouraged, to share one goal they will fearlessly strive for this year. WT