Noemi has been a part of a Local Committee of AIESEC in Italy since October 2017. She is currently the Vice President of Marketing for her LC. During a Local Committee conference, she gave a workshop on what she’s learned about failure through her AIESEC membership experience.
The history of failure
In Classical Greece, merchants whose businesses failed were forced to go to the marketplace and sit with a basket covering their heads. This would announce their failure to the people who passed by. Similarly, in pre-modern Italy, failed businessmen had to go to the main square of their city naked and do strange activities, all in the public eye. In 17th century France when a business went into bankruptcy, it was publicly announced in the market square.
Failing in the past happened at the public and social level; failing meant being humiliated in front of friends, family and strangers.
What does failure look like today?
Nowadays, it’s not so common to see people who failed coming out in public to announce their failure. That doesn’t mean we don’t still fail. Although we don’t have to submit ourselves to the public humiliation of the past, we continue to live our failures at a private, psychological level. This can be devastating and make it difficult for us to continue moving forward, even if moving forward is the only thing you can do.
Scientific studies have shown advantages to sharing our failures: sharing and admitting failures makes people stronger, more open to their vulnerabilities and more connected to the people they share with. Talking about our mistakes instead of keeping them to ourselves helps us embrace the life lessons those mistakes teach us.
If we are all aware that every human being fails, why are we still afraid to admit it? By talking about where we’ve gone wrong, we put ourselves on the same level with the person we share with. Admitting it will help us get back up and start again stronger than before.
AIESEC: a safe place to grow
It’s difficult to find a safe space in our daily lives to share our failures with people willing to listen. It’s even harder to find people willing to help us get back up and start again. That is why AIESEC is such a unique organization. AIESEC is a safe place to fail and to share those failures with others. That’s because the people in AIESEC are young and they take on big responsibility; each and every one of us has experience making mistakes.
However, AIESEC isn’t about failing. It’s about growing. In AIESEC, you find yourself surrounded by people willing to listen and to help you grow beyond your failures. We believe in the development of human potential. AIESEC is a place for each person to find their strengths and weaknesses and grow through experimentation.
Life is full of opportunities. Whether you have the opportunity to enter in AIESEC, go on an exchange, start a new job, whatever it is – don’t let it go to waste. Nobody is going to come to you and force you to grow, make yourself a better person or develop yourself. AIESEC gives young people the opportunity to do these things, and we as AIESECers have that opportunity. It’s up to each one of us to make the best of it and use it to work towards making ourselves better.2