Author Sarah Lewis Shares an Alternate Take on 'Failure'


Author, art curator, and historian Sarah Lewis shared with a packed Romita Auditorium the idea that the events we call failures can lay the groundwork for the most iconic and creative endeavors -- from Nobel Prize-winning discoveries and entrepreneurial innovations, to spectacular athletic achievements and stunning works of art.

Lewis came to The College of New Rochelle on April 3 to talk about her debut book, "The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery."

She started with her own experiences with failure. She aspired to be a painter in high school, and won top honors at a regional competition one year. She entered the same competition the following year, and went home with no accolades. It was a dispiriting development, but she wrote about the event in her application to Harvard. Not only was she accepted, but her essay made enough of an impression that an admissions officer remembered it years later upon meeting Lewis.

Lewis continued by noting "failures" by notable figures in history. She told of how legendary choreographer Paul Taylor pursued his minimalist style despite audiences that walked out and a review that consisted of just blank space below the headline. Lewis showed a photo of Martin Luther King Jr.'s high school report card, pointing out his grade of C in public speaking.

Her examples highlighted "grit" as a key attribute of success, demonstrated the importance of knowing when to give up and reevaluate one's approach, and explained how "near wins" inspired people to work harder.

Lewis' talk was followed by a question-and-answer session and a reception.