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'Best Fail Ever' Asks Students To Talk Failure And Resilience

Throughout the week, students can write their biggest fails on graffiti boards set up all over campus, and they don’t have to sign their name. It’s a safe, anonymous, yet public space to share their experiences.
Mike Albans
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College students are usually encouraged to talk about how much they’re able to juggle and achieve, how well they’re doing, and how much fun they’re constantly having. The result is that many end up suffering from stress and anxiety in silence, alone. But what if it were okay to talk about failure too? What if it were normal and healthy, even?

The University of Montana’s Curry Health Center is launching a new initiative this week called Best Fail Ever to help students do just that.

Linda Green, the Director of Wellness at Curry, says it’s something new for them.

"The whole idea was to share some of our stories about ways that we maybe were not successful doing something, and to talk about the whole concept that what really makes you successful is asking for help.  When you fail, to step back and go, oh, maybe there was a better way to do this, or a different way to do this," says Green.

Throughout the week, students can write their biggest fails on graffiti boards set up all over campus, and they don’t have to sign their name. It’s a safe, anonymous, yet public space to share their experiences.

Linda Green, the director of wellness at UM's Curry Health Center.
Credit Mike Albans
Linda Green, the director of wellness at UM's Curry Health Center.

Cody Adams is a 23 year old community health major at UM who spent a few minutes reading the Best Fail Ever board in the University Center.

"Once you see other people's, it’s easier for you to kinda let yourself realize all your failures as well and know that you can do better," Adams says. "And that some of them are either as good or not quite as spectacular, but everybody fails."

Adams himself has changed majors three times, and is now circling back to his first one. Finding out about other students’ biggest challenges was oddly comforting, and helped put his own in perspective.

He reads one that especially stood out to him.

"It says, ‘I took a math class this summer, worked really hard on it, did very well, but didn’t complete the course by the deadline. Lost a lot of sleep working on the class, still failed it. Now I don’t qualify for financial aid. And was homeless, staying at the Povarello center for the first month of the semester.’ It’s just, it makes you kinda realize and be thankful for everything you have right now," Adams says.

Students were also invited to stop by the "Blue Couch" today — a station set-up with comfy chairs, free coffee and tea, and peers who get it about fearing failure and want to listen. It’s modeled after the Kleenex commercials where random strangers let it all hang out.

Marty Meineke is a PRO, or Peer Reaching Out. It’s a student group connected to the Curry Health Center. Today, his job is to staff the couch and make sure other students know where to go for help if they’re feeling overwhelmed.  

"When adults talk to me, and when peers talk to me about coming to look for help,  I feel like there’s always that intimidation," says Meineke. "Even that intimidation of reaching out for resources on campus that are there to help you. I think that when you hear it from your peers, it’s more approachable, and it seems easier. And you take their advice because they’re in your same shoes and they found what works for them and it could work for you."

Best Fail Ever events are happening on campus and on social media this entire week. And if they get more students speaking out about failure and also resiliency, Linda Green will consider this a success. It doesn’t end there though. 

"It’s like what do you learn from that?  How do you turn that around? And that’s what I want to do with these boards now and with the conversation across our campus. To get people talking about that you have to go on even when you fail. So that’s the next piece," Green says.

As for Marty, he’s still recovering from a serious styling mistake.

"I bleached the beep out of my hair. And a lot of it fell out. So much of it fell off, it was like a little chemical hair cut. I put that as my second biggest fail," Meineke says. "I took away from it that I need to be aware of my hair’s limitations and take care of my hair. Do those nice things for it if I’m going to have a fashion color."

At the very least, he’s more than willing to talk about it.

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