“A key component of wisdom is fearlessness … which is not the absence of fear, but rather not letting our fears get in the way…. So very often the difference between success and failure is perseverance. It’s how long can we keep going until success happens? It’s getting up one more time than we fall down.” 

– Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Huffington Post 

Recognizing failure is an essential part of our learning journey. We conduct Fail Faire events as a celebration of fail stories and how we can learn from them. In March, our Fail Faire focused on celebrating failure as a means to learn among women, with the chosen topic, Celebrating Successful Women; Leveraging Failure for Success. Although we typically host Fail Faires as in-person events, due to COVID-19 we shifted it to a virtual event hosted on our Facebook page.

The format of the event allows speakers to talk through their fail stories, and express the learnings they drew from them. Our speakers for this event were Natalia Tariq, resource mobilization coordinator at the Association for Progressive Communication; Aasiya Akbar, an advocate at Lahore High Court; and Maria Mahmood, founder of an initiative called Engendering Campus Spaces.

To begin, Natalia Tariq shared the concept of failure at work. She explained that there was an unhealthy obsession with success which causes anxiety, disturbance of work/life balance, and linking of self worth with achievements at work. 

When organizations are pushed into this obsession with success, they tend to overlook things that don’t work, consequently not making them part of their learning journey. She emphasized how accepting failures helps us to learn from them. We need to recognize our failure to reflect upon our decision-making processes, and to bring a change in the work we do.  

In Natalia’s fail story, she reflected on her experience applying for grants and leading the Open Government Partnership coalition with the government and other partners. She explained how she used feedback from failed grant applications to improve her subsequent grant applications. 

While lobbying for the government to support Open Government Partnership, she developed her advocacy skills and was able to bring together unlikely partners. Natalia explained that she viewed her failures as an opportunity to grow, because viewing failure through a positive lens can help fight the fear.

During her talk, Aasiya Akbar shared  her experience of going through a divorce. Divorce typically has a stigma around it, and many people believe it shows failure within a relationship. Walking the audience through her experience, Aasiya explained how it helped her become more independent and allowed her to understand herself better. 

This self-awareness helped her learn that happiness is not linked to achievements such as being married at a young age. Other things she pointed out were that it is imperative to find and achieve self-happiness before you can spread it among others, and the importance of economic independence. Through her story, we can see how getting back up is not always an easy option, but when taken it leads to new beginnings.

As our final speaker, Maria Mahmood spoke about her journey of starting her organization, Engendering Campus Spaces. She drew on lessons such as how the fear of failure and anxiety can make simple solutions skip your mind. She wanted her listeners to understand that failure occurs commonly, so there is no need to panic when experiencing it. Fear of failure helps no one; it just causes anxiety. Asking for help is okay in order to learn and become independent.    

We use Fail Faire events as an opportunity to reflect on past achievements honestly, with a view on future plans. This time, conducting it virtually was a new experience altogether. It helped us learn about how to best conduct such an event, how to better prepare the speakers, how to engage the audience, and how to structure virtual events. Our speakers reinforced our belief that failure is the best opportunity to learn, and we look forward to providing our audience with similar events in the future.

Our next virtual Fail Faire will be hosted later this month on our Facebook page