I’ve been teaching for two decades now, and now, as an academic, I’m aware that the same problems that plague our youngest school-goers plague university students: we are a punitive society – we create these things called ‘Fail’ grades, and then students of all ages become fixated on the pass/fail dichotomy and begin to believe that this is how life works. It doesn’t. We are all failures. Every single day. Every day something doesn’t go as planned. Every year, our goals shift and change. For four billion years, our evolution has followed a whole trajectory of things that didn’t pan out, and others that did. The concept of personal failure only came into our discourse in the 1800s. Before then, a fail was simply when something didn’t go as planned. Now it’s the most used word on the internet, the most feared thing in school, sport, business, university. We tie our survival instinct to even the smallest ‘failures’ like our kids losing a game or getting 3/10 on a spelling test. Those things are not important in themselves. Your child will not be poor and unhappy because he gets 3/10, unless he is made to feel unworthy about getting 3/10! These things leave trails of devastation in their wake – low self-esteem and loss of interest. Fail Brilliantly is about changing how we think about failure, but it’s also a proposal to remove the word ‘Fail’ from schools entirely. It doesn’t help anything or anyone ever. The concept of ‘you’ve got it’ or ‘not yet,’ is far more accurate, more helpful and more reflective of actual life. When pilots train, when they’re competent, they go solo. Otherwise, ‘not yet.’ More practice, more experience, until the level is achieved. When we set out on a journey, whether it’s climbing a mountain, or learning a new skill, there are steps forward, set-backs, and sometimes you have to cancel the journey and try another one. It’s time to erase the language of failure from education and the realm of human endeavour and start using words that more accurately and helpfully reflect the real, lived day-to-day human experience.