Saif's story

Saif (25) is a master's student in Artificial Intelligence at Utrecht University. Besides his studies, he organises storytelling events in Utrecht. With his friends, he sometimes talks about failure, but it remains a complicated subject.

For you, what is the definition of failure?

"For me, it is the failure to achieve a certain idea that I myself have. And that can be something that I have in my own mind or some kind of assignment or idea that has more or less been forced on me by the outside world."

So part of the definition of failure lies with the world around you, with society?

"Also, but also the pressure I put on myself. But then again, maybe that is partly due to society haha."

In your film, you already indicate that you are good at talking about it with your friends.

"Yes anyway. I am not very good at keeping things like that to myself, so I find it very nice to discuss it with my friends. It makes me feel safe. Also to get advice and perspectives from others, for example. That's how I try to deal with failure."

And that's scary. Or it's not actually supposed to happen.

So do you have friends, for example, who do find it difficult to indicate?

"Yes, then it also takes some time to get it out of them, because of course you notice when there is something with your friends. I think the reason they find it difficult is admitting failure. And that's scary. Or it's not actually supposed to happen, that wasn't the intention."

So it would be nice if we normalised failure a bit more?

"The stigma has to come off. I think that can only be done by talking about it a lot and highlighting it more often. The Faal Festival helps anyway, because it makes it discussable for people. Visitors then take it home and have conversations with their friends and family there again. I hope it does something in the long run."

What has been an important experience of failure for you? What is your failure story?

"Just before I went to Lisbon, I came to see a psychologist. It was quickly discussed there that I had been suffering from this depression for a while. So I took that with me on exchange and that partly overshadowed the first few months I experienced there. I found that very difficult, because the whole situation felt like failure. 

Everything around me was going super well, I had nothing to complain about, but I still couldn't fully enjoy myself and I actually noticed that all the time. It also felt like failure because it didn't fit the picture of going on exchange, because that should actually be a great, fun experience."

And were you able to talk to people there about the feeling of failure?

"Somehow I found that very complicated. I talked about it with many friends back home, I phoned many of them. But with the friends I had there, it took some time before I told them. In the end, it was really a relief. Talking about it helped me."