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It’s OK to Fail

It’s OK to fail and sometimes even necessary. Although I was always conscious of this fact to a degree, I never took to heart until my late twenties. Allow me to introduce myself, my name is Brad Wilson and I am currently working as a Coordinator of International Relations (CIR) at the Fukushima International Association. I have the unique opportunity of contributing to the ‘Color Us Project’ from the perspective of a foreigner. Today I would like to talk about failure and why it is important for our own growth, confidence and perspective in facing future challenges.

Have you ever studied another language before? If you have, you will know that it has many challenges and can sometimes be an embarrassing thing to use in front of other learners or native speakers of that language. When I worked as a teacher in Saitama from 2018 to 2020 I observed many Japanese who were so afraid to make mistakes that they wouldn’t even try. Because Japanese people are taught group behavior by the education system, they are often afraid of failure, be it big or small. They might think “what will I do if I make a mistake?”, or “I’ll appear bad in front of everyone else”. These thoughts prevent any action being taken and the student ultimately abstains from saying anything or sticks to something they know is 100% correct. I believe this quote from Winston Churchill puts it succinctly: "If you don't make mistakes, you aren't really trying”.

When I finished high school, I enrolled at a music school to complete a Bachelor’s Degree of Music. I attended the full three years, however I failed the history exam and thus was not able to graduate. I was told I would have to study for another year, but around that time my interest in Japanese had started so I decided to change my major to Japanese and study for 4 more years. There is a slight stigma against people who drop out of courses or who spend a long time at university so it wasn’t an easy decision for me. At the time I felt like I had ‘failed’ as I was unable to complete my original degree, however looking back now it was actually a fantastic decision for myself. I was able to work towards something that had a positive impact on my life and that I was passionate about. It made me think “what is a failure?”, can I truly say I failed if the outcome was positive? There is the saying “when one door closes, another opens”. I believe this to be true and that we can turn our perceived failures in success. After all failure and success is all dependent on who is perceiving it, by nature we are very harsh in our self-judgement and should cut ourselves a bit of slack sometimes.

Let’s take a language learner for example; they may make a mistake when speaking in front of the class and teacher. Some people may laugh, some people may be understanding, and some people may think nothing. However, it is often embarrassing for the student and this may affect their confidence. You may find yourself in a similar situation where you feel embarrassed or your confidence is hurt. Instead of thinking “I was wrong” or “I failed”, we should try change those thoughts into “I learned something new”, “next time I will be more prepared”. It may be hard to fully incorporate this way of thinking at first, but the more times you go through this cycle of failure and improvement, the more you start to understand how there is no shame in being wrong, but rather how necessary it is. I firmly believe that failure is the opportunity to improve, all you need to is try, and you will be forever wiser than someone who simply watched in silence and safety.






Brad Wilson(国際交流委員)





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