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Failures have always been with us, and most people don’t like to talk about them.

By A. Hill, Contributing Writer, Campus Life

Wesley Longhofer recalls a mortifying experience that he had 17 years ago when he led three of his colleagues on a goodwill mission to Honduras to build a fence and paint a health clinic. The day they arrived, Longhofer broke the community’s only shovel.

“I remember flinging it to the ground and it snapped in half,” he said. “It was embarrassing and humiliating.”

Before a fence could be built, concrete pillars had to be constructed. But neither Longhofer nor the other students knew how to build them. They soon learned they didn’t know how to build a fence, either. So, they decided to just paint the clinic – until they went inside and discovered it was an empty, shell of a building.

“We were building a fence around a building that was nearly vacant,” he said. “If we had done more background research, we would have found a better project that was actually going to be beneficial.”

Longhofer counts that trip as one of his biggest mistakes. So big, in fact, that he shared the story with more than 70 Emory students last year during – you guessed it – “F#ckupNights” or “FUN” for short.

Longhoffer and Coetzee accidentally spill coffee.In an unplanned moment, Longhofer spills a cup of coffee and Coetzee helps him clean
up a mess far too inconsequential to be discussed at F#ckupNight at Emory.
Photo by Tina Chang.

An associate professor of organization and management at the Goizueta Business School and a faculty-in-residence at the university’s Woodruff Residential Center, Longhofer is coordinating the event at Emory for the second consecutive year. It will be held September 9, from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., in the new Emory Student Center, room 4.

Failures professionally and socially have always been with us, and most people don’t like to talk about them.

That was not the prevailing sentiment when a group of friends kicked off the first F#ckupNights in Mexico in 2012 when they invited a handful of entrepreneurs to share their stories of professional failures with strangers.

Seven years later, the movement has gone global with events in more than 300 cities, 80 countries, and 30 languages. The organization has a research arm, the Global Failure Index, which develops and disseminates reports to businesses, academic institutions, think tanks, and scientists about the failures that entrepreneurs grapple with. City, company, and academic chapters are open for membership.

F#ckupNights is valuable, advocates say, because the event helps students open up, communicate their feelings, and learn to become resilient when things don’t go as planned. Having professors share their big mistakes humanizes them and shows students how to turn an apparent failure into a positive learning experience.

“Emory students are driven, high achievers, who are used to being the best. To get into Emory, they’ve likely lived a life of lots of successes,” said Lisa Coetzee, director of communications for the Office of Undergraduate Admission. “We want to make it more acceptable to talk about failure.”

Priyanka Desai, a business student and resident advisor in Raoul Hall, can relate. She encouraged some of the residents to join her for the 2018 F#ckupNights and was so impressed with the program that she’s taking students again this year.

“College can be an overwhelming time for students because they’re trying to make a good impression on everyone they’re meeting,” Desai said. “At the beginning of the year, it’s good for first-year students to see that their RA’s have made mistakes, and their professors have made mistakes, and it’s okay to talk about them.”

F#ckupNights at Emory will feature professors from the university’s business and nursing schools and Emory and Oxford colleges, in addition to the debate team coach. Their stories will be interspersed with roundtable discussions with students about resiliency and turning setbacks into opportunities for growth.

The event is open to all students at the university, and RSVPs are encouraged. For more information about the event at Emory or to RSVP, visit: https://emory.campuslabs.com/engage/event/4630183 or https://www.facebook.com/events/2287488004697286/.

For more information about the global organization, visit: https://fuckupnights.com/ or email hola@fuckupnights.com.