Redefining Failure

Fortune magazine's The Most Powerful Women 2013 event

Does the name Sara Blakely ring a bell with you?  What?  No? 

Yeah, it didn't for me either.

At least, not until I saw this great video.  To be honest, I had probably read her name once or twice in a business magazine or some article online.  She is, after all, an incredibly successful American entrepreneur who founded Spanx, a brand of undergarments nearly any woman in America would know the name of. 

If that doesn't impress you, take a quick look at her Wikipedia page, and you'll see that she's been on Time magazine's list of the world's most influential people as well as Forbes magazine's list of the most powerful women in the world.

Why am I telling you all this?  Because in this short 90-second video, Blakely explains to us how her father consistently redefined failure (a.k.a. making mistakes) for her in a way that made her the success that she is today.

Failure for me became not trying.

If you're feeling particularly ambitious, I suggest you keep an eye out for these three takeaways:

  1. Notice the kinds of gestures she uses as well as her facial expression when she speaks.  She is very animated and enthusiastic about what she's talking about.  This is something we can learn from when it comes to the delivery portion of the GBC. Try copying the way she speaks.

  2. If you're doing or have done the Business Result Intermediate textbook, do you remember that blue box tip on page 8 about using the word "actually"?  Well, here's a real-life example of someone using that word - and she actually uses it twice.  It is used differently from how the textbook introduces it, but we can still use "actually" the way Blakely does: to emphasize that what someone said or did was quite surprising.

  3. One of the things she says later in the interview is this:

I started realizing that in everything there was some amazing nugget that I wouldn't have wanted to pass up.

It's not the content of the quote that deserves notice here, it's a word and a phrase she uses that I rarely hear students use.

  • (a / the) nugget = a small piece of information that can be valuable or important //  ex: He shared some nuggets of information about the field that I hadn't been aware of.
  • (to) pass up = to fail to take advantage of an opportunity (this one is used pretty commonly among English speakers) //  ex: He passed up the job offer, because he was really committed to his current project.  

Click here, and it will take you to the website with the video.  You have to sit through a commercial first before it starts though, so if you don't mind the video quality being subpar (= below average), you can watch the YouTube video below.  Seriously, you won't want to pass this up!


ring a bell—sound familiar
a.k.a.—also known as, used to introduce another name for something.
keep an eye out for—look carefully for something; pay attention and hope to see
takeaway—something to learn from a book or movie etc. A lesson.