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Failure Is So Good It's Delicious

Yesterday, I wrote about the 10 reasons why Romania is better than America, but today I want to discuss why, despite many qualities, Romania is still perceived as -and arguably, is - a backwards country while America is held up worldwide as an example of the ideal place to live.

There is only one real reason - if you're reading on a mobile device please sit down as I divulge this mind-blowing secret:

In America, it's okay to fail, but it's not okay to give up. In Romania, the exact opposite is true.

My first 'official' failure was eleventh grade Biology. I showed up to half the classes, didn't do any homework, and 'studied' thirty minutes before the exam. Did I get shunned, persecuted, and humiliated by my teachers and parents? No, they just said, "try harder next year". You see, in America failure is recognized as a perfectly natural consequence of not trying hard enough. There is no reason to put it on the news and to be a big negatron about everyone who fails.

How is Romania different?
All you had to do was watch the news here last week. The high school baccalaureate ('Bac)' exams that every student is required to take to determine if they're good enough for post-secondary studies are a big story each year. You'd think it's because they highlight how many of them get 80% or more and then proceed to all the fine universities on scholarships and so on. But this is Romania, and as the world's unhappiest people we have a duty to uphold this epic achievement. The focus here is always on which schools all the 'dummies' go to, the county with the lowest marks, how many students failed the Bac, and all kinds of other morale boosting tidbits.

You might think that this negative social attitude towards failure would coerce students into excelling. Wrong. Even if that were the case, it would only be a sick illusion, like Lil Wayne's record sales being perceived as linearly proportional to his talent. What actually happens is that these kids grow up with such an abnormal fear of failure that it borders on phobia, especially if they're amongst the 57% who failed the 2012 baccalaureate exam. Look at the picture below, is this what teenagers about to go on summer vacation should look like?

Alba county students after receiving final Bac results

While I have a feeling that the guy in the blue didn't fare as badly as his colleagues did, he's not going to think it's very funny when a future potential employer tells him that his school marks are irrelevant to the job. As for the distraught students, they obviously never heard Dennis Waitley talk about failure: “Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.”  This is an amalgam of many similar viewpoints that suggest failure is a stepping stone to success, a series of mistakes, and overall pretty insignificant as long as those times when we do fail, we remember the lessons and try harder. You see, this is the biggest problem with failure: the fear that it might be so discouraging  that we’ll never succeed in anything else. Ever.

How is it that in Romania, where most policy makers and power movers were high school geniuses (according to these ridiculous Bac results), they can't even build a cross country highway, while the world's wealthiest people live in a place where failure is basically embraced?

I don't mean to say that you will find Canadians and Americans spending their days looking for creative ways of instigating failure. It’s that they aren’t afraid of it. It doesn’t come to mind as an obstacle. There is no fear of losing a job, an opportunity, or losing face because of failure, even though sometimes those happen to be the consequences.  You cross that bridge when you come to it, but up until that point you focus on doing your utmost to succeed at your goal, not on avoiding failure. Can you count how many times you hear the phrase “Ma fac de ras” or “S-a facut de ras” in a month? Lots. That's Romanian for “being a laughingstock”. I don’t think I’ve ever read that word in a newspaper in Canada, nor have I ever heard it broadcast on the six o’clock news.

And that brings me to my main point. You’re allowed to fail without being afraid of it. I took that biology course again and passed comfortably, I didn't even have to try that much harder. Nobody in class looked down on me for failing the year before. In fact it's quite common to have older students in your classes all through high school. Nobody thinks twice about it, you just crack on until you pass like you know you can. In Romania, the kind of ostracism resulting from failure, be it from family, peers, or teachers, is so bad that only somebody with a very strong character can come out of it intact. Now think of all the teenagers you know that posses the type of character and self-confidence not to be fazed by people's opinion of them.

I'm glad I didn't have to deal with that pressure and I was allowed to focus on doing my best, and even though it was a tight squeeze I got into the University I wanted and did lots of other awesome things along the way without worrying about failure.

Failure really means this:  You said “fuck it” and tried something you wanted to try.  It means that while everybody else is worried about becoming a laughing stock, you’re worried about results. And then when you miss the mark, you know better for next time. That’s all. You’re still alive, you didn’t detonate an atomic bomb, you’re still going to put your pants on one leg at the time, and guess what? You're hungry and you're better for it.

You know you’re going try again, because what's important is attitude.


  1. I live in America. Since I was a child I had a keen interest in gymnastics but there was a complicated problem as a child. I had dealt with borderline/mild general learning disability and untreated ADD/ADHD symptoms including bipolar or PTSD. Additionally I was born prematurely, weighing at 2-3 pounds. Physical education in wasn't always very successful in my case, and its something else for me rather than traditional exercises. Eventually I discovered that there was holistic approach to the the traditional physical education. Upon the exercise ball, Pilate's, or other workouts actually works well for me. I wonder if there might be a therapeutic approach to gymnastics? It doesn't have to be competitive or serious regarding some peoples circumstances. Another question is, was Romania's dictator almost nearly bad as Adolf Hitler? Speaking of dictators there is one just like Adolf Hitler in the countries like Syria and Egypt, etc. However it is getting very frightening and and nerve reckon in America because of the terrorism that has a connection with ISIS.


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