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Embracing the Near Win: The Hun School Welcomes Sarah Lewis

Dr. Sarah Lewis, author of Los Angeles Times bestseller, The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery, spoke at The Hun School of Princeton on Tuesday, November 17th as part of the School’s Centennial Speaker Series. Dr. Lewis’ message to students and faculty was about the propulsive potential of failure as a path innovation. Dr. Lewis provided dozens of examples of individuals who, in the face of a momentary or repetitive failure, went on to great achievements.
She said, “I wanted to understand the riddle: how it is that zero becomes not just nothing, but the start of infinite possibility? As I wrote The Rise, I researched the lives of 150 individuals – contemporary and historic figures. And, I learned that there are basically three characteristics that they all demonstrated to have had this break-out level of success.”
“The first characteristic I saw that they all had was the ability to focus, not just on success but mastery. And to also know that in order to remain masterful, they need to let themselves be deliberate amateurs. Second, I realized these individuals cultivate private domains for themselves, before they unveil their work in a very public light. And the final trait is grit, they are all incredibly tenacious,” Dr. Lewis explained.
Dr. Lewis dispelled the idea that failure is definitive. Instead, she presented failure as a necessary component of greatness and as a path to some of our greatest innovations. Innovation, as Dr. Lewis described it, is born from moments when an individual fails to hit his or her target by conventional means, and finds a creative or original way to achieve the desired outcome.
Hun School student Kimrin Dhillon ’18 said, “Dr. Lewis provided a different perspective on failure. She de-personalized it for what it is – an opportunity to learn. She spoke about failure as a way to strengthen ourselves. And, if you want to make it in a high achieving environment, it makes sense to master this skill.”
During what Dr. Lewis calls the “near win,” students are given the gift of failure – the opportunity to practice, explore, and imagine. Dr. Lewis explained that the journey is about learning to embrace your failure, “knowing that the near win can actually propel you to a terrain you would never have found otherwise.”
Dr. Lewis is an assistant professor of History of Art and Architecture and African and American Studies and a Du Bois Fellow at Harvard University. Before joining the faculty at Harvard, Dr. Lewis held curatorial positions at The Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Tate Modern, London. She also served as a critic at Yale University School of Art. She has served on President Obama’s Arts Policy Committee and as a Trustee of Creative Times, the CUNY Graduate Center, the Brearley School, and the Andy Warhol Foundation of the Visual Arts.
The Hun School of Princeton is an independent, coeducational, private day and boarding college preparatory school.  Student-centered, hands-on learning prepares students for the global community in which they will live and work.

176 Edgerstoune Road, Princeton, NJ 08540  |  Phone: (609) 921-7600 | Email: admiss@hunschool.org