student asking question

What does "public failure" mean?


Native speaker’s answer


When Steve Jobs says that he was a public failure, he means that he had "failed" in public. This means that he considered himself to be either a "failure" in the eyes of the public, or he is referring to the fact that his "failure" was witnessed by other people around him. Normally, people have "failings" in private, but his unique identity as someone with some fame made him consider himself to be a "public failure." Ex: The movie was a public failure. The famous lineup did not help ticket sales at all. Ex: Many individuals who experience public failures go on to be quite successful.

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