Do We Europeans have a Failure Complex?


All throughout our lives, here in Europe, we are raised to be fairly risk averse, avoiding failure by any means necessary. This is a problem that i believe is holding back our drive to innovate, to dare, to create and to mould new industries or revolutionise others.

Whilst not everyone will agree with me, these are some of the stumbling blocks “society” put in front of me to try and persuade me to risk less, and fail less. I don’t think they worked, or at least I hope they didn’t.

From as early as I can remember, we were given tests, with rewards for doing well and answering correctly. Spelling tests, homework, mid terms, internal exams, GCSEs, A-levels… Always ‘rewarding’ us for correct answers (read as: acceptable compliance with what was expected of us).

But even from the beginning, failure was ridiculed, punished and reported. And why shouldn’t it be, no one should be happy with being unable to spell. But if my history paper on the Bolsheviks was a little too creative, I would quickly find myself in the bucket of failures, not because I was wrong, but because the answer was not acceptable… But that’s a whole other kettle of fish to be addressed in another post on another day.

Universities in Europe
From what I’ve heard from friends and aquantences alike , most academic universities follow the same style as mine did. Students are dosed with syllabus after syllabus, expected to be able to regurgitate an acceptable answer on a specific day in a specific format, allowing for a few exceptions here and there.

What this leads to, coupled with our previously discussed 10ish years of anti-failure training they call school, is cramming. And loads of it. We squeeze in groups of all-nighters, consume copious amounts of caffeine and try remember as many of the points we need to pass, or “succeed in gaining an education”.

Wouldn’t it be better if a certain level of risk was actually recommended though?
“Take the time to actually learn the subject, instead of chasing deadlines” a lecturer could say, describing that at the end of the year a student could hand in a practical demonstration of the subject matter learned, or opt to write an exam if he/she so pleases.

Imagine what you could learn if you weren’t trained that any kind of failure was unacceptable. Imagine the risks you would take. Imagine the things you could change. Imagine the places you could go and the things you could do.

Now stop imagining, and go try something new.

Whether its finding and reading a book on something you were always curious about, or taking a step back and actually falling back in love with the subject you’ve chosen to study, or even starting a small business on the side… Go on and try it, and if it fails, you can do something else.

Obviously, you have to keep a calm head. I am NOT saying that you should cash in your child’s college fund to launch an instagram for underwater squirrels, I’m just asking you to at least think about what is actually stopping you from talking the first step to changing your situation, an industry or even the world.

As usual, I’m open for all types of comments below.. Go for it! Let me know if you agree or think I should be thrown from a spartan cliff*.

*it is highly unlikely that my legal advisors will let me accept all requests to be thrown from any cliffs.

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Hey, I'm Hector 👋

I’m a flex workspace technologist – which is just a geeky way of saying that I get to work with awesome people & tech to support, run, market & connect thousands of flexible workspaces around the world. 

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