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Tuesday, October 3, 2023


Author inspires students with story of failure

Sarah Lewis, author of this year’s summer Provost read The Rise, discussed her book with faculty, staff and students Wednesday in the Cullen Performance Hall.

Lewis spoke about the gift of failure and near wins, as opposed to completed victories. She explained to the audience (mostly freshmen) that to accomplish one’s dreams, one must abandon fear, take risks, learn from failure and embrace the near win.

“Failure is so important to achievement because it lets your goals become larger,” Lewis said.

“It allows us to see that achievement is not what we do, but who we let ourselves become. This is what I hope for the freshmen who read this book take as an idea for their lives.”

Lewis also shared a variety of stories of successful individual’s experience with failure, including Martin Luther King Jr., Oprah Winfrey, J.K. Rowling and the inventor of Spanx Sarah Blakely. Lewis spoke specifically about Blakely’s childhood experience with her father’s reframing of failure.

“(Blakely’s) father would ask her at the dinner table ‘So what did you fail at today?’” Lewis said.

“She came to learn from him that failure is not an outcome, but instead the refused attempt. So she began to not hold back when she wanted to try something new.”

While most schools only focus on success, audience members appreciated that the Office of the Provost chose a book with a new theme.

“It was a really inspirational talk, and I’m glad the University of Houston isn’t only emphasizing that we always have to succeed, and that it’s okay to have some failures on the way,” psychology graduate student Madeleine Gorges said.

“I think (failure) is a really important process.”

Lewis ended her speech with a question, to inspire students in their educational journey.

“What is your summit, and how will you get there?” Lewis said.

For freshmen in the audience, this question inspired some to find their true passion.

“I have no idea what I am going to do in life, and she really inspired me to go with whatever feels right to me,” psychology freshman Daniela Castillo said.

“If you have inspiration, that’s all it takes to get to where you want to go. I hope to soon find out what that is.”

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