Faraz Fookeer Lake Danau beratan man wondering

Why failure in life is good for you.

“Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” — Nelson Mandela. Failure?.

Failure has defined my life. Since that day back in August 1996 when I experienced the first major failure of my academic life, I have been sensitive to failure and, crucially, always tried to learn from my mistakes.

We all have one day the feeling of having failed our life. ailed in a relationship, regrets, failed as we were not born with this and with that, like this or like that. Because he has this and she is like that.

HEY!! You can breathe. Keep calm as Queen Elisabeth II say. And time to work on it. Find a solution, work on it, improve yourself and/or change. Get over it, and reborn stronger. No matter your age, problem.

Everyone, feel this one day. Some more than other, later or sooner. What matter, is how you react to it.

I. My first big failure.

Failure has defined my life. Since that day back in August 1996 when I experienced the first major failure of my academic life, I have been sensitive to failure and, crucially, always tried to learn from my mistakes.

I can remember the day like it was yesterday. My schoolmates and I arrived at school to collect our A-level results. We clambered over one another like wildebeest at the watering hole, around the teachers giving out our result envelopes.

Faraz Ali Fookeer portrait in Bali. What failure taught him.
Faraz Fookeer

I did not expect to do that well since my 6th Form years can loosely be described as a two-year on-site school party. But, I did not expect to fail as well. Average grades were my expectation and were fully prepared to take on my engineering degree that Autumn.

But, the universe wanted to teach me a lesson. And, boy, did it teach me one. Upon opening the envelope containing my future, I gazed upon results that were career-defining. I had failed everything. Every. Single. Subject. Maths, physics and chemistry.

The feeling of regret was palpable and the shock sent my stomach into a recess somewhere between my bowel and my intestines. My friends rejoiced at their results — rightly so — whilst I remember sitting on a chair, staring into space. I got the usual “it’s ok” and “don’t worry” wishes from the gathered throng but I was in too much of a shock to care. You know what I mean.

II. How it helped me?

Fast forward three months and I did indeed enter university in September. I was accepted into a foundation programme focused on science and engineering. After three months of regret, anger and rumination, I made some hard decisions and decided to never experience what failure felt like ever again. A decision. Simple as that.

I was to learn that results of the decisions are enshrouded in symbolism, habits and sheer hard work. On stepping into the engineering department for the first time, to register with the other dropouts on my course, I vowed to leave this institution with a First Class degree. The pain of failure was to be the fire in my engine. Positivity out of negativity coupled with the sheer desire to succeed by any means necessary.

On that day, happened upon a second-year aeronautical engineering student who was loitering in the main corridor of the building. As the universe decided to tear my world asunder a few months back, it now gave me a lifeline in the form of this man. He did not know me from Adam but, as I walked towards him he stopped me and looked me straight in the eye and said the following words: “it’s all about desire.” I sh*t you not. That was it. I never saw him again in my seven years at university and but I that moment is etched into my psyche.

The next four years of my undergraduate saw me working like a machine. A machine fuelled entirely by those feelings of despondency and regret experienced that fateful day in August. I subsequently graduated with a First Class Honours degree in Aeronautical Engineering and that opened all of the doors that you’d expect such a qualification to open.

III. Since then.

There have been many failures since, in all aspects of my life and, as much as life keeps on kicking me down I will always get up.

Divorce, break up, death, family not supportive, career destroyed… You know how growing up is like. It can feel like the world is falling apart and any step you do a mountain to climb. You have to get better for yourself, learn from it or understand it. You are the only one who can help yourself, so don’t rely on others or blame others.

Here’s what I learned (and am still learning) from failure. Your turn to learn and understand:

  • You get what you deserve — if it is a fail at work or at school, it is generally because the work was not put in. It is oft said that there is no substitute for hard work. This is forever true. However, if it is a failure due to circumstances outside of your control then this, obviously, does not apply.
  • Failure is temporary — failure is a bruise and not a tattoo. As long as you are breathing then you have hope. We should go easy on ourselves and accept that we have failed. Give yourselves time to reflect and learn from your experience.
  • Embrace the fear — failure can burn you within the mind and the gut like a roman candle, never to be extinguished. It can generate a fear that prevents us from taking the next step or even repeating that task or communicating with that person. You should use this fear for good. You should use the memories of those emotions caused by failure to power the lessons that we have learned from it. In this way, we can use failure as a perpetual engine that drives success.

6 most famous failures, who became later a success. 

  1. Albert Einstein, my favourite. At the age of 8, Albert’s teacher said he will never succeed! As he did not even know to fully speak German, his native language. At 15, he felt unwelcome at school and drop out, to fail 1 year later his college entrance exams. At 20yo, he gets (famously later) labelled as a “lazy dog” by his math professor, and the next year graduated at the bottom of his class and becomes the only one in his class with no job offer. He even failed the military physical exercise later on, but luckily as the 1st and 2nd world war exploded. Even if he discovered E=mc2, he gave up his dream of becoming a professor at 29, and start looking for another job, but finally became professor a year later giving up!
  2. Bill Gate. Before launching his well-known company Microsoft, he was a drop off as a student from Harvard University. Then launched a company called Trad-O-Data, but had to close it down with a loss, as he did not do any market research and literally had no customer, even if the idea was good. Then he made a lot of mistakes in his career with Microsoft, as you learn quickly from, like investing in Apple who became a terrible rival, or did not engage with the government… Find the 7 biggest of his failures with Microsoft here.
  3. J. K. Rowling. The well-known story of Harry Potter started in a train on a napkin. She was a young divorced after a short marriage, with 2 kids, living on benefits “as poor as you can be in modern society, with a roof on the top of your head”. Her book was rejected by 12 publishin!g house! Before being accepted by a small one.
And the 2 last ones..!
  1. Jack Ma The founder of Alibaba. Jack (who actually is only a nickname) did not give up after failing all his exams in school (failed some of his exams nearly every years of his scholarship, terrible in math (scored 1/120 in Math at one of his entry exams), and even failed his admission to Harvard 10 times. Once the only one out of 24, to not be hired at KFC. And even after the creation of Alibaba, and as the company was in a loss the 3 first years, not able to convince Silicon Valey to invest in his idea! Went nearly bankruptcy with his stubbornness, but never gave up, even if everyone around him told him so.
  2. Vincent Van Gogh and Pablo Picasso. 2 artists who never tasted the success, only after their death. So who was right persevering and never giving up their dreams, hum?  Vincent Van Gogh only sold one painting in his entire life, before dying at 37, poor, but still his passion for painting intact. Pablo Picasso was a genius of Art, overtaking his dad at 12, and finishing his entry art school exam in a week instead of a month! Being able to replicate some of the most famous (at the time) arts! But his passion to draw cubism has never been recognised. He never gave up his dream of his art being recognised! And even if he died poor, he is one of the most known painters, opening the door to abstract art, and his work is the most stolen, with at least double than any other artists! Keep an eye in your loft, if you have some paintings your grandfather hid…


What have been your failures? Maybe you have never failed (I’d love to hear about your story, if that is the case)? How have you used failure for good? So hit me up in the comments below.
Also, find here “how to accept and tolerate uncertainty“, an article from us.

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And don’t forget to follow us on your favourite social media platform: Facebook for the stories to share to friends and Family, Instagram for the best pictures, and Pinterest to pin your dreams!


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