Fail Better

Fail Better

Recently I wrote about Southeast New Mexico College’s (then) upcoming Taste of Culture event. It was wildly successful, with more than 500 community members in attendance who enjoyed free food and fellowship. We plan to host another one next April, and I hope to see you there.

In that article, I mentioned all the countries of origin represented at SENMC, including “Columbia.”  A colleague gently noted that there is a Columbia University and Columbia Pictures, but the country I was referring to was Colombia.

While we updated my posted article on the SENMC website within the hour, I knew the newspaper article would continue to reflect my error for years to come.  

I will not make that mistake again, but in a public article, I had let everyone see that I had missed something important.  Despite my best efforts, I had failed.

Failure is no fun, but it is part of life. We deal with it in many ways.  We may brush it off.  Kind friends may excuse it, telling you that it’s OK and it happens.  These are coping mechanisms, and I am not discounting the comfort that they provide, but many times embracing our failures allows us to gain the most.

We learn through failure.  From the beginning, we try things and fail.  We try to go where we want to go and we only flail our arms and legs.  We try to stand and we fall.  We try to walk and we tumble.  But eventually we succeed.  Wanting to do something we couldn’t do before is a driving force of youth—and it is something we need not leave behind.  When we do, we lose something precious.

As we are learning something new, we are incredibly focused.  Consider when you learned how to drive.  You were trying to attend to so many things, trying to remember all the advice and instruction you had received.  It was tiring and overwhelming.  Through hours and hours of practice—and many mistakes—you mastered a new skill.  

It is during those times that you are pushing yourself through the failures and learning from them that you gain the most.  But it isn’t just you—it is the licensed driver in the passenger seat too.  This is why coaching is a profession.  Someone else can see what you are doing and provide you a perspective you can’t gain alone.  They are pushing you to improve, even when you may be thinking you are good enough.  You are hoping for the end of the painful learning experience.  They are envisioning what you could do if you persist.

Failure is often fundamental to discovery.  In the early 1960s, Robert Wilson and Arno Penzias, two scientists who were doing research in radio astronomy, were baffled by “noise” in their measurements of cosmic radiation.  They couldn’t figure out why they couldn’t eliminate it from their data.  They wondered if it was the bird droppings on the antenna, but a thorough cleaning made no difference.  They gave up for a time until a conversation sparked the revelation that the noise was real.   They had discovered cosmic microwave background radiation, resulting in their receipt of a Nobel Prize in 1978.

Learning from our failures and persisting through them is essential to a life well lived.  Samuel Beckett captured this in his short work, Worstward Ho! , where he wrote “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”

In this month of commencement celebrations—whether you are a graduate or not—I wish you all the best.  And may you fail better.

Kevin Beardmore may be reached at or 575.234.9211.

Related Posts

Tessa Folks Awarded a Comprehensive Scholarship

Southeast New Mexico College 2024 Commencement Ceremony

2024 SENMC Mountain Lion PRIDE Teaching Award