Fear of Failure Project

Created by students in TDM 181 The Artist Citizen: Socially Engaged Art in the 21st Century, the mission of this piece is to awaken a mindfulness in ourselves and our community of what it means to fail.  At a university that is an international beacon of success, there is a culture here, a mindset here, that facilitates the sense of always needing to succeed and strive for more and never accepting or acknowledging our failures.  We hope that this piece will create a space that will invite people to reflect on their own failures and interact with the failures of others, fostering much needed dialogue about this mindset on campus.

Wall Text accompanying project:




What you are looking at are the hundreds of failures of Harvard students and faculty.  At a university that is an international beacon of success, it is really easy to fall into the trap of only focusing on our successes and the successes of others and never accepting or acknowledging our failures.  What kind of environment does this create in a community whose hallmark is an overemphasis on some elusive notion of “success”?   Do we hold ourselves back from doing things we think we might inevitably fail at?  Do we stop our own growth because we fear being anything other than a “success”?


As you read the failures of what many would consider to be the most “successful” community in the country, let them awaken a mindfulness within yourself to recognize that we, as human beings, will inevitably experience and witness failure and that our value as humans cannot be quantified by a resume of our successes.  Allow yourself to reflect on your own failures. And as you become more mindful of your own failures and the failures of others, together we can start to break down the fears that stop us from pursuing the unknown, the risky, the challenging, and the potentially rewarding.


Never forget that you are HERE!  Your successes AND your failures have gotten you to where you are now.  Embrace them.