Chasing your tail, striving for excellence, in search of frank recognition, does that mean anything to you? A researcher suggests putting an end to this breathless refrain, not nearly. Instead of aiming for success, he suggests rehabilitating… failure.

Bold proposal, which comes to us here from Florian Grandena, professor in the communications department of the University of Ottawa, to whom we owe the collective with the intriguing title to say the least: Failures and vomiting – Reflections on failure as a mode of life and philosophy, co-edited with Éric Mathieu (with whom Kevin Lambert notably collaborated), published earlier this fall.

A reflection that is timely in this era of inflation, cutbacks, bankruptcies and other layoffs that continue to multiply. Stung by his words, we contacted the researcher and author to find out more.

“When we define success in neoliberal terms, we can only be disappointed,” he explains in an interview. This is not reasonable for anyone! »

Neither “reasonable” nor frankly livable, we understand, since said success here is intended to be “total”, “immediate” and “extreme”, downright “stunning”. Now, who really experiences such a “total” thing?

Do these comments shock you? You should know that Florian Grandena is not alone, these days, in questioning this “tyranny of success” and the great fatigue that results from it. Just think of Bianca Gervais, who wrote a rich reflection on our collective exhaustion earlier this fall in Crevée, a documentary broadcast on Tou.Tv Extra; or to Amelia and Emily Nagoski, two sisters and researchers who proposed a scientific (and feminist) variation on the same theme with Brûlées (the anticipated translation of Burnout); without forgetting the psychoeducator Stéphanie Deslauriers, whose title of the latest work says it all: You deserve better than a bubble bath. No doubt, if we really want to experience less pressure on a daily basis, less fatigue in general, socially speaking, the necessary changes go far beyond bubbles or scented candles.

So what to do? “There is no magic recipe,” Florian Grandena explains here, “but for me, personally, viewing failure in a positive way is very important. » Easier said than done, he agrees. If the exercise is disruptive, it is also more philosophical than practical. Above all, it has the merit of opening the discourse to new perspectives, starting with a normalization of experience.

After a few detours to D or Y, we might add.

In other words, it is completely normal to not complete a task perfectly, as desired or requested, and it is not necessarily a failure, he says. Whether it’s writing, cooking or sports, whatever the field, let’s ask the question: “Why can’t we succeed? Maybe the material conditions weren’t met, maybe it was the mental conditions? Or maybe we’re just not capable yet? »

Note that not only is this normal, but also “it’s part of learning a profession, or learning a relationship,” he insists. It’s part of learning about life! And it’s absolutely essential! »

Are you disappointed? Feeling frustrated? Angry ? Just like failure, Florian Grandena highlights the importance of rehabilitating these so-called “negative” emotions here.

All this is very philosophical, our interlocutor concedes, but no less essential. Because by revisiting failure, we revisit success at the same time. The author dares here to make a very personal confidence. For a long time, he says, he hoped for recognition from his community, particularly from his employer. “But maybe this success wasn’t the right thing to expect,” he confides. For me, success is not having my dean call me three times a day. For me, now, success is when I am satisfied with myself because I teach a good course or I write a good book or… I do a good interview with a journalist. »

If we could realign our expectations in this way, modify our perspectives and set certain records straight, we would undoubtedly all be more “at peace with ourselves”, he believes, downright more “happy”.

“When we recognize that failure is an integral part of creation […], when we understand that it is part of the process, we will no longer get stuck, because we know that it will lead us elsewhere. So we live with less anxiety, less stress and fewer pseudo-negative emotions. […] Failure is taboo, he concludes. Yes, it hurts a lot to not succeed, but… that’s how it is! […] It is part of our human experience. »