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  • Mike and Helen

When failure becomes success...

…and success failure.

On Thursday Elon Musk’s hugely expensive ‘Starship’, the most powerful space rocket ever launched, climbed over 20 miles into the sky in about four minutes. And then it exploded. A spokesman for SpaceX described the launch as a success. It had greatly accelerated the development of what will eventually be a reusable space vehicle, he said.

Ruth Perry, head teacher of Caversham Primary School in Reading took her own life while waiting for the publication of a report which would label her school and her leadership ‘inadequate’. The anxiety and stress she experienced following the inspection by OFTSTED (the government’s office for standards in education) became too much to bear, it seems. Meanwhile amid the clamour following this tragic death, the government pronounced itself basically satisfied that its inspections were fit for purpose. Further, a single overall grade would continue to define schools’ performances. Many teaching professionals would vehemently disagree.

Dr Joasia Zakrzewski accepted a medal for third place in the GB Ultra marathon, a 50-mile race from Manchester to Liverpool. It became clear this week that she had accepted a lift in a car for 2 miles or more because of great pain in her legs but she did not withdraw from the race. The medal has become a badge of shame and badly damaged her high reputation in the field.

This morning comes news that Dominic Raab has resigned his position as deputy prime minister in the Conservative government because a high-level report has found him guilty of bullying civil servants in the Foreign and Justice ministries. He maintains that his high-octane approach produced exactly the kinds of results which the public demands in their public servants.

And so it goes on. Putin and his cronies regard the ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine as a successful step on the road to his vision of Greater Russia. Most people outside Russia would disagree. It all depends on how you measure success and failure, and how you brand it. There are significant judgements about performance to be made.

It is very easy to buy into the images and estimates of success which confront us in the media. But the feature articles which appear in weekend newspapers about the lives of people in the public eye, make it abundantly clear that ‘all that glistens is not gold’.

There’s a lot more to a good primary school than OFSTED reports. There is more to competitive running than getting medals or even achieving personal bests. The successes in our own lives are not typically measured by objective standards even if they are often the easiest measures to use.

At the end of another week, it’s useful to ask, What do I see as successes and failures in my life in the last seven days? ‘Who sets the bar for success and failure in my life?’ Where do my standards of success and failure come from? Are they fit for purpose?

But then again...some successes and failures are only obvious to the next generation!

Maybe we’re not our own best critics...someone who loves us well might be the best judge!

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Apr 21, 2023

This is a lesson we need to be reminded of weekly, it seems, if for no other reason than to make sure our own standards of success are realistic and positive. Thank you for the eloquent reminder!

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