Failure also needs to be recognized, in some cases, as something that is imposed from outside. For instance, Occupy is consistently portrayed as a failure in my local media--the term "moribund" in particular comes to mind. However, I've found it very successful as a way for politically-minded people to find community.
"...There is something powerful in being wrong, in losing, in failing, and that all our failures combined might just be enough, if we practice them well, to bring down the winner" (127).
Our current mode of success/failure is closely tied to our economic system, as Queer Failure mentions. For one person to succeed, others must fail. In fact many of us are set up to fail, since while we all want to "win", this is impossible. Halberstam quotes Guy Hocquenghem: "Capitalism turns its homosexuals into failed normal people [exactly what I believed I was, pre-asexuality], just as it turns its working class into an imitation of the middle class" (103). In this social framework, I'm already so far behind that I may never win. Either I acknowledge that, or I try to pretend that I'm someone who can navigate this world with more ease than I actually can. Maybe if we deny failure, then we give it more power than it really deserves; it becomes too scary to ever risk. For so long, I've been trying to figure out some philosophy of life under which I could succeed, or somehow alchemize my losses into wins. It's been extremely exhausting. Perhaps it's the labeling--"succeed", "fail", "win", "lose" that needs to go, in favor of more dynamic, personalized language.
"You don't learn from a situation where you do something well. You enjoy it and you give yourself credit, but you don't really learn from that. You learn from trial and error, trial and error, all the time."
--Suzanne Farrell. Quote seen on the wall of a dance studio. Failure central, amirite?