Marc Le Menestrel
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Fear – Failure - Fortitude

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by Marc Le Menestrel (26/11/2012)

When I stepped down as a professional athlete and started a more "normal" professional life, one of my biggest surprises was people’s attitude towards failure. As if “others” were trying to never fail. I had my successes as a rock-climber, but I was very aware of many more failures. In climbing, as soon as I was completing a route, I was trying something harder, and failed. Until success is reached, climbing is like a succession of failures. It does not mean that I looked for failures, but the idea was to fully accept their necessary existence, and to manage the bitter, unwanted feeling that comes with our defeat.

I was therefore especially interested when I was proposed by the Lisbon MBA to design and run a workshop on failure. Its pioneering session on November 23rd, 2012 worked well and was praised by the participants. As an experiential session, most of the content was coming out of them as actors of the learning process. For instance, one of the first sharing from a student was to formulate that

"the opposite of success is not failure, it is not trying".

Indeed, an important key for turning failure into fortitude is to realize that it is part of a learning process.

The central experience of the class is an epic journey, built around the archetypal myth of the hero and its quest. Besides a few words for the guided visualization, we used a musical composition due to Jean-Michel Robert. After having experienced the journey, Jean-Michel composed a 6-part piece using Chinese cymbals, Thailand gongs, electronic music, guitar, oak and other artifacts. I was glad to combine such a beautiful piece of musical art with our work, in the spirit of a deep yet playful endeavor.

At the end of their MBA, and in the difficult economic context of Portugal, the session was timely, allowing students to work on the fear of not finding a job, one of their most important goals for the forthcoming weeks. In the afternoon, another guided visualization exercise helped them to formulate the goal beyond the goal, and thus to reinforce their capacity to confront their actual challenges with full potential.

Description of the session

In this experiential session, participants learn about failures, fears and their role for future successes.

We use the art of conversation, with others and within ourselves, to explore the surprising world of our shadows, and to eventually embrace our experiences beyond the imperative of being always successful in everything.

We give a special emphasis to the distinctions between objectives and dreams, between professional success and self-accomplishment, and between individual and collective failures.

Targeted outcomes

• Increase awareness about failures and fears

• Develop participants power to manage fears and learn from failure

• Increase participants future resilience


Beowulf and the Dragon – H.E. Marshall 1908

To go further

Leaflet used by students for their personal learning.

The International Day for Failure, an inspiring initiative of Finish young entrepreneurs, to be celebrated on October 13!

Fail & Learn: Tuuti Piipo, who collaborates to the International Day for failure, has gathered a series of resources and references (articles, videos, books...) around Failure on this Kippt bookmarking service.

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