Failing Gracefully

Academic Leader

Make no mistake about it: If you serve long enough as a university administrator, sooner or later you will fail at something—massively, undeniably, and embarrassingly. Either the result that you intended from an initiative never came close to being achieved, or you’ll have a new supervisor who feels you’ve wasted your time pursuing X when you should’ve been pursuing Y, or you’ll charge off in a bold new direction only to discover than no one is interested in following your lead. Never having a failure isn’t really an indication that you’ve done everything successfully; it’s more likely an indication that you haven’t been trying enough new ideas or endeavors. Certainly, you can fail by attempting to do too little rather than too much. But to fail miserably … that usually entails the launching of a new, albeit ill-advised enterprise.

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