Michael Jordan talked about it, “I can accept failure...I can’t accept not trying.”
Henry Ford spoke about it, “Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.”
Len Schlesinger, at the Global Leadership Summit said, “Failure doesn’t mean the game is over, it means try again with experience.”
Failure. At some point in our lives, I believe we all have been afraid to fail. Sometimes, I believe we even set our expectations lower for the fear of failing. And even sometimes, we tell ourselves we are too busy, not enough time, or even don’t have enough resources as a way to avoid failure. As a teacher and a mom, I have a love-hate relationship with the word failure.
I hate the word, because many times the perception is that failure is the opposite of success. I love the word, because there is an abundant amount of learning that takes place when we fail.
How do we teach our students to understand failing is all right? How do we teach them to understand being faced with adversity is all right? How do we teach our students perfection on EVERYTHING is not attainable.
My “unresearched” answer...just wait for it...because it is good. We model failure. We discuss failure. We provide safe opportunities to practice failure. We even encourage failure. Wait...did I just say that, encourage failure? Yes. And I am not saying failure should be encouraged all the time, but we can provide a safe classroom environment to practice failure.
Frequently, my leadership discussions with students revolve around the aspect of taking risks and being okay with failing. It is not a word we should be afraid of or even avoid. To help my students understand that failure is part of the learning process, I assigned a project that is mindfully and purposefully set up to fail. The initial responses from my students, “Who would do that?” and then the infamous “Buy Why?” My response because "I want you to learn and see there is an abundance of learning that takes place when you are pushed beyond your comfort zones."
Next week, my Introduction to Business students will be introduced to their failure to success project. And this is I know, at first they will not like it, who wants to be set up for failure? However, providing my students with a safe place to try something new, fail, try another approach, and then fail again, will ultimately prove to be a success. I will watch their curiosity being sparked, I will see them develop problem solving skills, enhancing their creativity, and even learning to adapt to the challenges placed in front of them, and through all of this, each student's project will surpass my expectations.
And yet, through this project, I might fail, I might not be able to answer their questions, however I will be there modeling that failure is not the opposite of success, it is all part of the learning process.