From the Principal

Success is a Funny Thing

Success is a funny thing. Sometimes what looks like failure turns out to be success (in the long run).

For several years I have had the opportunity to teach students a Higher School Certificate unit based on the film “Blade Runner” – one of my favourite all time movies. And I am looking forward (not without some trepidation) to seeing the sequel, “Blade Runner 2049″.

One of the things that most people who have watched and enjoyed the original – now considered one of the great modern classic films – is that on its release, the film “bombed”.

“While androids dream of electric sheep, accountants must have endured hellish nightmares in the aftermath of Blade Runner’s dismal run at the box office in the summer of 1982. An opening weekend of barely $6 million was attributed to an ill-conceived advertising campaign, the competition of “ET” for bums on seats and a mixed reception from viewers who felt stunned by the imagery but alienated by the narrative.”

It took ten years before what is now considered a “blockbuster” stopped being seen as a bad idea/investment only appreciated by a small group of dedicated “underground film” fans.

Blade Runner is one of those movies that needs time for audiences to absorb, due to its vast aesthetic and philosophical scope. The turning point came with the release of the hugely superior Director’s Cut in 1992, prompting a critical re-evaluation and huge sales on home video.”

I think the lesson from this is that passion for an idea or a project may end in what seems like  failure, but over time can become the foundation for great success.

This is a lesson for our students. Sometimes what seems like failure can be success in disguise. It can also be an opportunity to review ideas, plans or goals and set ourselves on a new and more productive path.

Here is some advice for dealing with failure:

  1. Mistakes are not a problem, but not taking the opportunity to learn from them is. Identify your mistakes and learn from them quickly. Many successful people have experienced some kind of failure–and they build on those lessons. Learning to fail well means learning to understand your mistakes. In every mistake there is a potential for growth.
  2. Be careful how you talk to yourself, because you are listening. Self-talk can be incredibly damaging, especially after a failure. Handle your self-talk and don’t allow it to make you feel worthless–especially in the aftermath of a failure. Let it sting for a moment, and then do everything you can to stay positive and get back on track.
  3. It’s far better to do something imperfectly than to do nothing perfectly. The only true failure is doing nothing–inaction puts everything at risk. When we do nothing, it means we are not moving anywhere. And that is a surefire way to stay in failure. All that is required for failure to triumph is for us to do nothing.
  4. We are products of our past, but we don’t have to let our mistakes define us. Even if the past did not go as we had hoped, our future can still be better than we can envision. Too often, we’re afraid to talk about our past and our failures out of fear that they’ll define us. Let it out, but stay focused on what’s ahead.
  5. The enemy of success is fear of failure. It’s not failure itself that’s so dangerous–it’s the fear of failure that keeps us doing nothing. Like all fears, you conquer it by facing it down. And when the fear of doing nothing exceeds the fear of doing it wrong, that is when your true work begins.
  6. Consistent action creates consistent results. Strength doesn’t come from what you can do, it comes from mastering the things you once thought you couldn’t do. So let yourself fall down, but learn to dust yourself off and get up and move forward. What you do every day matters more than what you do every once in awhile. Consistency is key to success.
  7. You can’t do it alone–and you don’t have to. Sometimes our failures keep us stuck in our old ways and we need support to help us get past our bad habits. The worst thing we can do is think we need to handle this alone. Find a coach, a mentor, or a friend who supports you in your efforts and has the experience to get you pointed toward your own success.

History is littered with successful failures and the main difference between them and abject failures is that they did not give up, did not stop trying or did not accept that the current assessment of them was the end of the story.

If I might quote from a character in another of my favourite movies The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel:

“The only real failure is the failure to try. And the measure of success is how we cope with disappointment. As we always must. We came here, and we tried. All of us, in our different ways. Can we be blamed for feeling we’re too old to change? Too scared of disappointment to start it all again? We get up every morning, we do our best. Nothing else matters.”


Evelyn: Nothing here has worked out quite as I expected.

Muriel: Most things don’t. But sometimes what happens instead is the good stuff.


Terry Muldoon

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