Failure

In middle school I built a website about the seven wonders of the ancient world. Nothing fancy – just images and some links – and I never published it. Building a personal website over the past few days as per Jeremy’s request feels a bit like coming full circle. My HTML skills remain prepubescent at best, and my barebones site keeps the spirit of GeoCities in the early 1990’s alive and well. Check it out. http://bmw9t.github.com.

I admit to some hesitation in posting this fledgling site for all to see: so much more could be done to bring it into the twenty-first century. But I keep coming back to Bethany’s encouragement last week to fail in public, advice with which I am in love. My graduate training thus far has emphasized polish and perfection, for clear and obvious reasons. But even at this early stage, my work with Praxis feels more electric knowing that mistakes are welcome and that failure is viewed as a space of experimentation and elaboration rather than embarrassment.

I cannot imagine any sort of collaborative activity (teaching included) that would not benefit from a healthy injection of interpersonal risk. We can’t really work together until we know each other, and that depth of knowledge only comes from admitting that we don’t have all the answers and that we don’t always succeed. Opening yourself up to such failures and recognizing their importance as part of any process is a necessary step towards collaboration that is more honest and certainly more human.

A promise for you out there in the ether: by the end of the year I will have turned failing into an art form. I’m sure in May I will look back on this early site with disdain and an eye to incorporating all sorts of tech wizardry. Maybe I’ll add a GIF. For now, I’m off to break the Internet.

Brandon is a 2012-2013 Praxis Fellow and a Ph.D. student in the Department of English. His research focuses on modern and contemporary fiction, especially on Anglophone modernisms and the novel in relation to sound studies and musicology.

4 Comments

  1. Clearly, what I need is an under construction cat gif.

    I love your story, Jeremy. In fact, it’s the best one you’ve told me. We’ll have to check in later, after you spin more yarns and after I publish my website on the seven wonders.

  2. This is I go for all my under construction gif needs.

  3. When I published my first book review in a journal, I went to one of my professors to show him the print, to say thanks for encouraging me to ask to do a review in the first place. He looked it over, smiled a bit, handed it back, and said, “This is your best review yet. It’s your only review, but it’s your best review.” I chuckled, we chatted a bit more, and I left. Looking back on it, I realize he was jokingly encouraging me to get better by keeping doing it. Success isn’t really a one-and-done thing. It’s iterative, evolving. That review would not be my best review only after I had written more.

    So I have to say I’m failing to see where you failed with your site. Right now, it’s the best site you’ve made. It’s the only site you’ve made so far, but its the best one.

  4. I remember writing similarly about failing in public last year–and I remember how terrifying it was. But as you say, admitting you don’t know everything *is* key to success, especially in group projects. The only suggestion I have for your website? Make your gif a cat gif 😉

    Congrats on blog post no. 2! And keep up the good work!

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