Views & Reviews Between the Lines

Successful failures

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: (Published 05 October 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d6072
  1. Theodore Dalrymple, writer and retired doctor

Failure is the dark underbelly of success; for every outstanding case of the latter, there are many cases of the former. Perhaps that is why the US author and philosophical anarchist Henry David Thoreau wrote that most men lead lives of quiet desperation (and go to the grave with the song, if any, still in them). The necessity of failure for there ever to be success also explains why, in so optimistic a land as the United States, so much of the literature is tragic; the land of opportunity is also the land of missed opportunity. The study of failure is in any case a more fertile subject for literature than success; …

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