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'Failure Lab' focuses on learning from mistakes

Posted on May 16, 2013

Speakers who focus on business and life tend to try to inspire guests through stories of success, wealth, promotion, and happiness. But from time to time, lessons learned along the way don’t come from success, but from failure. 

A groundbreaking event, created by Grand Valley State University alumni Austin Dean and Jordan O’Neil and sponsored by Grand Valley’s Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies, focuses on the teachable moments that failure provides. Dubbed “Failure-Lab,” the program will bring together a group of diverse speakers who will share examples of times when they screwed up. 

Speakers at Failure-Lab will present their tales of failure in a short story format, with a musical act between each speaker to give the audience time to reflect. An after-party will immediately follow, offering guests a chance to mingle and share their reactions to the stories. 

“Everyone who attends will get something different from our speakers,” Dean said. “The talks will really resonate, because everyone understands the feeling of failure. We want to say ‘you’re not alone, it’s okay, now get back out there, for your sake and the sake of the community.’”

Both Dean and O’Neil are graduates of Grand Valley’s Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies Cook Leadership Academy.

Failure Lab

May 23, 7 p.m.

Wealthy Theater, 1130 Wealthy Street SE

Grand Rapids, MI 49506

Speakers include:

Brian Vander Ark, lead singer for The Verve Pipe

Katie Caralis, program director of the Creative Youth Center

Ellie Rogers, Herman Miller

Andy Soper, project coordinator, the Manasseh Project

Antonio “Shades” Agee, professional graffiti artist and designer

Rick Beerhorst, artist, musician

Entertainment between speakers will be provided by hip-hop dancer and choreographer Mark Evans Jr., singer-songwriter Karisa Wilson, and harpist Juliana Nahas, who is also a graduate of the Cook Leadership Academy.

For more information, visit

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