Archetypes of failure
To start our research process, I began reading articles about people throughout history who were considered failures. There was a lot of sifting through these articles to find quotes about failure, most of which felt cliché or were one-off examples that didn’t provide any real substance for this project. This was until I stumbled upon a quote from Michelangelo that really resonated with me:
The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short, but in setting our aim too low and achieving our mark.
As a creative, Michelangelo fascinates me. I remember learning that when he was commissioned to paint the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City, he had little-to-no experience as an actual painter, which reminded me a lot of the concept of imposter syndrome.
Often in a creative field, when we take on larger and highly impactful projects, especially when navigating problems we may be unfamiliar with, we can feel we’re unequipped to do the job. I think some of us can also feel siloed and that we’re the only ones who might feel this way. I know I have.
After learning about Michelangelo, it was refreshing to know that someone who people idolize as one of the greats also had similar feelings as obstacles to his own success. In fact, he also often gave context to those he worked with that he lacked experience in certain artistic areas, just to avoid being labeled as a failure.
This example felt relatable, and helped me use this model as a launchpad to explore what other human symptoms might arise for people when presented with failure. As I continued, it became clear that some people’s emotional tendencies produce a negative effect, limiting their productivity, while other people actually lean into risk and failure for a more positive result!
In total, we were able to assign four concrete archetypes that felt most present and relatable when dealing with failure: The Imposter, The Saboteur, The Expressionist, and The Enthusiast.
- The Imposter: Self-doubting, suspicious, driven
- The Saboteur: Pessimistic, avoidant, cautious
- The Expressionist: Unconventional, curious, determined
- The Enthusiast: Supportive, empathetic, optimistic