Flipping Failure

We’ve all felt “less than” at some point—not smart enough, not talented enough. But we’ve found that learning from our failures helps us grow.


TLL’s Flipping Failure initiative is a collection of stories told by MIT students about their paths toward resilience when faced with challenges at MIT.

The goal of this community initiative is to provide visibility to stories of academic challenge and resilience so that we can begin shifting the conversation around struggle from a source of shame to a source of learning and growth. We appreciate the complexity of failure and the diversity of students’ experiences with it, particularly in the ways that structural barriers can create or exacerbate students’ challenges.

The Flipping Failure project aims to provide a safe space for students to tell their own stories, as they see them, and to increase students’ self-efficacy and agency during difficult times. We hope that hearing peers talk about their struggles and the adaptive strategies they used to cope will help other students find and navigate their own path through challenges with resilience and self-compassion.

Flipping Failure was inspired by research demonstrating that students’ sense of belonging improves when they hear peers’ stories of challenge and reframe their own struggles as a normal part of academic transitions.

As of 2023, twenty-three undergraduate and graduate students have generously shared their experiences of challenge and coping across the varied academic landscape. To hear their stories, visit Flipping Failure’s website.

Contribute Your Story

All Flipping Failure participants receive coaching on how to craft and tell a compelling story, typically during a multi-day workshop that includes lessons on storytelling, wellness activities, and time to iterate and get feedback on their stories. Participants own their narratives, determining what they include in their stories and approving final edits before stories are posted.

If you would like to contribute your story to Flipping Failure’s collection, click here to find out when the next storytelling workshop will be offered.

Flipping Failure’s origin story:

It’s 2016, and I am showing students a video I recorded on a now-vintage camcorder. In the video, an MIT colleague speaks about his deepest professional struggle, his twenty-year stumbling journey toward publishing his first book. We are watching the video in MIT’s first IAP class on the growth mindset, a course I developed to help students reframe their academic challenges. Growth mindset strategies profoundly helped me examine and reframe my own experiences navigating college and graduate school as a first-generation immigrant from Cuba. The video immediately strikes a chord. My students exclaim that the story they’ve just seen reflects their own academic and professional struggles…Flipping Failure launched its website in 2020, and Its first contributor, Jennifer, participated in that original 2016 IAP growth mindset course.

Lourdes Alemán, Ph.D. Co-founder of Flipping Failure