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Samuel Beckett: his ‘fail better’ line from Worstward Ho has gained an improbable currency among business coaches and Silicon Valley types Pic: Bruce Davidson

The Department of Education is depriving students of a key learning opportunity: to fail

Why are we so afraid of failure in our lives? If I’m being truthful, I’ve learned more from failure than I ever have from scaling the giddy heights of success. Failure is a line in the sand; it’s an exam you didn’t pass; a job you didn’t get; a relationship that broke up; the death of a loved one (death, too, feels like the most acute and terrible type of failure; a failure of living). Failure makes you think; success makes you comfortable, blasé and possibly a little smug. I’ve hated experiencing the sometimes shaming waves of failure. But nothing has provoked me more than failure has. And nothing has given me more ambition: to pick myself up from the floor, dust myself off and prepare to fight on another day. Failure, more than most things, also helps to clarify what you want in life. Sometimes it’s only when you’ve lost something that you realise most vividly what you need.

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