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Kiddie Academy

February 21, 2024

Taylor Swift on the Gift of Mistakes

If you do only what you know and do it very, very well, chances are that you won’t fail. You’ll just stagnate, and your work will get less and less interesting, and that’s failure by erosion.
—Twyla Tharp, Dancer and Choreographer

With Taylor Swift often in the news lately, it’s perhaps not surprising her 2022 commencement speech at New York University came up on my social media feed. In it, she shared her reflection on the messages she often received around ‘failures.’

“See, I was a teenager at a time when our society was absolutely obsessed with the idea of having perfect young female role models. It felt like every interview I did included slight barbs by the interviewer about me one day- running off the rails, and that meant a different thing to every person who said it to me.

“So I became a young adult while being fed the message that if I didn’t make any mistakes, all the children of America would grow up to be perfect angels. However, if I did slip up, the entire earth would fall off its axis, and it would be entirely my fault, and I would go to pop star jail forever and ever. It was all centered around the idea that mistakes equal failure and, ultimately, the loss of any chance at a happy or rewarding life.

“This has not been my experience. My experience has been that my mistakes led to the best things in my life and being embarrassed when you mess up? It’s part of the human experience. Getting back up, dusting yourself off and seeing who still wants to hang out with you afterward and laugh about it, that’s a gift. The times I was told no or wasn’t included, wasn’t chosen, didn’t win, didn’t make the cut, looking back, it really feels like those moments were as important—if not more crucial—than the moments I was told, yes.”

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