Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Level of difficulty: ***


·         Think back on a time when you failed at something; what was your initial reaction?

·         Did your mood change in any way after a little time had elapsed?

·         In retrospect, do you feel this failure was useful in some way or was it a set back?

·         What is the correct attitude to failure in your view?

Your teacher will now read the first two pages of the text out loud to you in sections. These two pages include a lot of examples of failure and the consequences thereof. Discuss your views as you hear about each case. The questions below start at the top of page three of the print version.

QUESTIONS (from the top of page three: “We do know that learning is error driven…”)

1.       Read the information concerning Paul MacCready. What was his immediate reason for courting failure? What was his long term goal in courting failure?

2.       What overall generalization can we make concerning failure based on MacCready’s story?

3.       What does “it” in the phrase “it doesn’t make sense” in the last line of paragraph 2 refer to?

4.       What personality changes are brought about by failure?

5.       According to the information provided in paragraph 5, what does “equanimity” mean?

6.       Have another look at paragraph 5 and state clearly what advantage equanimity in a member of staff has for a company?

7.       Have a look at paragraph 6 and state clearly what you think “categorically” means.

8.       Read paragraph 7 and 8 carefully. The publication of the book “How to Get Divorced by Thirty” is proof that…………………………………………….. (There are two alternative answers; find them both)

9.       Read paragraphs 9, 10 and11 of this text. Now state what you think the most important advantage of failure is? (Be general)

10.   Which type of person, a ruminator or a resilient, controls his emotions, adjusts his thinking and recalibrates his beliefs? What do you think the words ruminator and resilient mean roughly?

11.   At the beginning of paragraph 15, the writer says “Pandolfini teaches his students this calming sense of perspective”. What does “this” refer to in this phrase and what does it enable the prospective chess players to do? Question suggested by Berna, Emre, Betül Sena, Sinem, Ayça, Serhan and Büşra

12.   Read paragraphs 16, 17, and 18. What view of intelligence would a ruminator hold? There is a positive correlation between resilience and ………………………………………………………………….. Question suggested by Sinem, Ayça, Büşra, Serhan, Güner, Kadir, Melih, Çağatay, Öykü, Tuna and Ferhunde.

13.   Read paragraph 19, carefully and state what you think “sweet pot” means in this context? Based on a question by Elif and Hakan.

14.   What does “This” refer to in the phrase “This is how we learn to solve problems…” in paragraph 20? Question suggested by Ayça, Sinem, Büşra and Serhan.

15.   Now read on as far as “Nine Ways to Fail Better”.  Why did Phil Schultz get such a positive reaction after the publication of failure? Based on a question by Kadir, Melih and Güner.

It is suggested that you stop at this point, discuss your answers and try and predict what the solutions are going to be.

 QUESTIONS (Page six: Nine ways to fail better)

1.       If an embarrassment has made for an entertaining story for someone, what has he succeeded in doing?

2.       Read the section titled “Join the Club”. People were only able to start posting productive hints once …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

3.       Read the section titled “Feel Guilt not Shame”. If you were the head of the planning department in a large company and the plans you produced resulted in failure for three consecutive years, what would you need to do?

4.       Read “Cultivate Optimism”. The quote by Hamlet seems to support the view that………..(Be very specific

5.       Margaret Evans said “This turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to me”. What does “this refer to in this sentence?

6.       Read the story of Gilbert Brim’s father. How exactly did his father avoid feeling a failure?

7.       Read “Harness the Bridget Jones Effect”. In your opinion, what advantage of journalism may have helped the middle aged engineers who had lost their jobs find reemployment?

8.       Read don’t blame yourself. Is there a positive correlation or a negative correlation between depression and attribution?

9.       Read the section “Act”. What does “it” refer to in the sentence “Seize it”?


Published on Psychology Today; http://www.psychologytoday/print/29564

It is suggested that you read the first two pages out loud to the students, one instance of failure at a time, and discuss each one. This will enable them to predict some of the content of the text and thus iron out some possible problems. It will also be novel pre reading activity. The questions start at the top of page three (We do know that learning is error driven).  As you see from the question sheet, some of the questions have been written by the students. You could do the same. After all there is no rule saying the whole of a text needs to be handled in the same way. My thanks go out to the students who contributed.


1.       He wanted to perfect the aircraft he was designing or he wanted to learn; he wanted to win the Kremer prize.

2.       The brain feeds on failure or we are acutely sensitive to…( ask them to find both for a change)

3.       The term trial and success.

4.       One becomes tempered.

5.       We learn that trauma is survivable so we don’t plunge too deeply following setbacks. Nor conversely do we soar too high on our successes.

6.       They will perform but not get emotionally attached to losses.

7.       Complete, all encompassing.

8.       Guilt can be beneficial; guilt was actually productive.

9.       A shift from pursuing the kinds of happiness that flare briefly to the kinds of happiness that endure.

10.   Resilients. Ruminators wallow in self pity and resilients with stand failure.

11.   Putting the game behind them when they lose.  Succeed or to learn to play better.

12.   The view that intelligence is fixed. The view that intelligence is malleable or the view that the brain is plastic.

13.   Ideal balance.

14.   Facing or dealing with manageable risk.

15.   Because they had an entree to talk about it.

It is suggested that you stop here and discuss the answers thus far and discuss the possible solutions they think the writer might suggest before bashing on.


1.       Stepping back for fresh perspective.

2.       They had vented themselves out.

3.       Own the failure, see what you can learn from it and move on.

4.       Optimism is the most important of the seven learnable skills of resilience.

5.       Being let go.

6.       He lowered his sights when that was realistically required/ he revised his outdated goals. ( ask them to find both)

7.       The fact that it boosted social skills…

8.       Positive

9.       The opportunity


You might want to let this slide as they will have been obsessing with the text for ages but should you wish to, an opinion essay where they state to what extent they agree with the writer may be nice.

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