Recently, I read an article by Mills (1991) “Responding to success and failure.” Mills taught us how to face and respond to failure, and it is indeed a useful article for anyone who needs guidance at that moment of ‘feeling down.’ Here are some hints:


Recognise the word ‘failure’:

Failure means:

  1. The condition or fact of not achieving the desired or ends.
  2. The consideration or fact of being insufficient or lacking; a falling short, a weakening.


Mills continued to offer ways to deal with programs failure:

  1. How attendance means perhaps marketing did not work, the topic wasn’t right or was ahead of its time, time of day, week, or month.
  2. The content was not satisfactory – Instructor was off track; needs survey did not reveal a critical topic. Group was ahead of or behind the level of material, or the facilities were terrible (refreshments were not ready on time. Other include chairs were hard, the restroom wasn’t clean, and the room was too hot or too cold. )


According to Mills, our ability to take risks closely tied to our ability to cope with failure and that not taking risks in continuing education will paralyze the profession and our service to others. Driscoll (1989) cited by Mills identified four benefits of failure”:

  1. It makes us more robust, stronger and more resilient to the struggle.
  2. We become more aware of what we are up against.
  3. It acts as a stepping-stone to success.
  4. It reviews our humility and prevents us from taking ourselves too seriously.


Mills suggested a few guidelines for Adult Continuing Education programs:

  1. Analyse the failure
  2. Blame the other person – Do this with precautions. If only the fault is not too high, blame the other person silently because you may need him or her next time around.
  3. Tell and share – For example, talk over your feeling of frustrations, doubts, and questions.
  4. Remain objectives – This way, you can see what has done, how it has done, why it failed to work, and how one might do it differently the next time (p.g. 85). In another word, reflection.
  5. 5.   Exercise – Regular exercise can help keep us on a more even keel so that failures do not represent significant changes in our lives.
  6. Volunteer or help someone – Switch your focus to other more important things or matters.
  7. Be kind to yourself – For example, take a short break on for a holiday, buying something extravagant just for yourself, etc.
  8. Smile – A smile a day can brighten up your day.
  9. Do something wacky – Break routines.
  10. 10. Read something inspirational
  11. Take a risk on another program.


Failure in anything does not mean the end of the world. It means a time for reflection, a time for adjustment and a time to take a break. If only we can remain calm, confident and finding help during the process of failure, nothing is too hard for us all anymore.




Mills, H.H.       1991   Responding to Success and Failure in Mistakes made and lessons learned: overcoming obstacles to successful program planning by Sork, T.J. Issue number 49. Jossey-Bass Inc.



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