Six of us. Creative entrepreneurs, service designers, social innovators. Colleagues and collaborators. Mutual admirers. We first came together for a six week course – hoping to learn practices that could improve our own work, and improve outcomes for those we worked with. We explored how we might better support young social entrepreneurs – those bravely setting out to redefine business as a force for good. We threw ourselves into our research, and soon a theme started making itself known.
The fear of it, the shame surrounding it, an unmet need to talk about it.
Then, as quickly as it started, our course ended. And our group shifted shape.
Into Fail Club.
We meet monthly over breakfast. We fling our bags on the floor and our coats over the chairs, hug each other tightly and exchange a flurry of greetings. We exclaim over fabulous shoes, great reads, weekend adventures, and swap quick professional state-of-the-nations. Then, over eggs and perfect crispy-edged hash browns, the cafe hum our soundtrack, we talk about our failures. Personal. Professional. Spectacular, subtle, painful.
We abandoned our original intended audience and made our own support group.
We laugh at ourselves a lot. Shared in such a safe space, our failures often seem hilarious. We all make such entertaining mistakes, form such lousy assumptions, and run so very enthusiastically with such deluded beliefs. On those mornings, I wipe tears of laughter from under my eyes and try not to spit green tea in an outburst of joy.
And then other mornings someone shares a failure so heart-wrenching that for a moment all the air in the room evaporates and we just sit. Quietly. In joint reverence of the fragility of being human.
We share shake-it-off strategies, resilience-building activities, and failure dissection tips. We dig into the failures behind the failures – yikes, it’s messy down there. We observe ongoing patterns of failure – failing to put our wellbeing first, failing to notice we are falling into unhelpful beliefs, failing to call ourselves on our own bullshit.
Failing to prioritise the stuff that actually matters.
We’ve met monthly for almost two years, now. And we have realised something.
This isn’t really about failure. This isn’t just an exercise in embracing failure. Trying to fail more or better. Faster.
We’ve fallen, entirely by accident, into something so much bigger.
Fail Club is about empathy. It’s about extending empathy towards our own failures and towards the failures of others. It’s about kindness. It’s about compassion. It’s about making space in the turmoil of everything, all of it, to notice.
It is a glimpse into the whole imperfect worlds of others – a gift in this glossy, social media-ready, carefully curated, cultural bubble that we live in. It’s about letting ourselves be seen.
It’s about our humanness.
We meet. We spread our failures out, gently, between the teacups. And we have those rare, vulnerable conversations that offer so much sanctuary.
Then we leave. Restored. Ready to try again.