Behind every success there are dozens of failures

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Vocabulary - failure idioms


In this lesson about success and failure students watch an interview with Jeff Bezos and learn a few idioms related to failure. They also put them into practice through a role-play activity involving different aspects of business failures.

C1 / Advanced60 minStandard LessonPremium Plan


The warm-up activity starts with students brainstorming the words they associate with the word failure. Then, they engage in a discussion about failures in personal and professional life. The next two exercises focus on pre-teaching the vocabulary students will hear in an interview in the second part of the lesson. First, they match eight words with their meanings (e.g. morph into, iterate, prone). Then, they see them used incorrectly in eight sentences and have to correct the mistakes.


This part of the lesson starts with a video. Students watch an interview with Jeff Bezos from Amazon and make a list of successes and failures at Amazon which he mentions. Then, they listen to the interview once again focusing on six specific statements. Students’ task is to decide whether the statements are true or false. The video activities are followed by another discussion in which students get the opportunity to reflect on the businessman’s views on success and failure, agree or disagree with him. After that, they analyse eight idioms related to failure (e.g. throw in the towel, fight a losing battle, a blind alley) and choose one correct explanation of each of them out of the given two. Then, they put the idioms into practice and use them to complete eight questions. Once the correct answers are clear, students answer the questions in pairs or groups. You can assign questions to a group or tell them to choose four which they want to answer. The final activity consists of a role-play. Students work in groups of three and each of them picks a card with instructions. They have to prepare a speech imagining the situation described in the card and make it more interesting by using the idioms related to failure from the lesson.



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  1. deborah

    Great lesson! However, in slide 8/9 , shouldn’t one ’embrace’ be ‘iterate’???

    1. Justa

      Thanks for the comment! Yeah, it makes more sense to have ‘iterate’ so that students can take it from the sentences. We’ve just changed that!

  2. deborah

    Another few observations, please. I think there are more ‘failures’ mentioned in the interview (Cosmo, Then, I believe that ‘third party sellers’ and ‘marketplace’ are the same thing. (Slide 12). Moreover, in slide 14, letter A is TRUE because the statement is ‘Marketplace constitutes more than 30% of units sold on Amazon’. So ,if it constitutes MORE THAN 30% then, 40% is more, making the statement TRUE. Finally, in slide 8, it says, ‘A good leader should encourage their workers to be…`Shouldn’t that read, ‘A good leader should encourage HIS/HER workers…’ OR ‘Good leaders should encourage THEIR workers…’???

    1. Stan

      Deborah, thanks for the feedback – we definitely will improve the lesson based on what you say. Let me address the things one by one:
      1) failures/sucesses: yes, third-party sellers = Amazon Marketplace, we will fix that in the TV, so there’s no confusion that these aren’t 2 separate things. In terms of and Kosmo, these are Amazon’s investments that failed, not something they developed, so we skipped those in answers purposefully.
      2) the T/F question – you’re right it’s confusing and logically it’s True, we’ll change that to something unambiguous.
      3) we often use the singular “their” or “they” instead of the awkward “he/she” or “his/her” and that’s widely accepted even by academic styleguides, e.g. APA or CMOS. Some prefer avoiding a situation when you need to use his/her or simply saying “his or her” but it’s all a matter of style, I suppose.

  3. Rebecca Page

    Less Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, please? 🙂 Love your lessons though!

    1. Stan

      Yeah, enough of these guys. I guess there’s too much about them out there already. We’ll try to steer away from both of these gentlemen (for a while at least 😉 ).

    2. Marcin Ratajczyk

      Yes please! I’ve had enough of them too! We need materials about people who are REAL HEROES not these inhuman, gangster style racketeers.

  4. library

    Thank you for a wonderful lesson!!!

    1. Justa

      Thanks for the comment!


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