Lately I’ve been seeing posts on social media about teachers not assigning homework to students in an effort to give them some quality time at home with their families, or a chance to take part in extracurricular activities, etc. I love the concept of our children not being burdened with books and problems to take home after they’ve been at school for seven or eight hours, but that’s a different post. What I’d like to talk about today is one of my all-time favorite teachers: Failure.
Yes. Failure as a teacher is an incredibly powerful educator. It means that you were so excited about an idea that you took a chance and went out and tried. I’ve given up counting the number of endeavors that I’ve taken on and learned from-but I do know that my education when it comes to failure has always provided me an avenue to assess my skills, figure out what I did wrong and try again. You don’t meet many successful people that haven’t overcome setbacks or down times-those are the periods where the spirit of bravery, wisdom and tenacity are formed.
I LOVED this brief clip with Sarah Blakely, the CEO and Founder of Spanx, where she talks about how her father taught her to think about failure:
Instead of asking his children to list off accomplishments each day, he asked them to name something that they had tried and failed at, as well as what they learned from it. By embracing failure as a teacher, it gave his children the courage to try new things and not be discouraged if they didn’t work out. Remember the great line by Thomas Edison when he talked about failure? He said, “I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
When is the last time you thought of something that you’d love to do, but the fear of failure stopped you? Those words you always meant to write? The photos you thought you might enter in a contest? The clothing you dreamed of becoming a clothing line? The business you wanted to start?
I think as we get older, we avoid risk more and more until we completely stop trying new things because we are afraid that they won’t work. This makes sense because as we age, we also tend to have more responsibilities that require us to abandon daydreams, but I also think that it ages us even more because we forget that we are capable of doing things that we didn’t think were possible.
I’m not saying quit your job and start typing the next great American novel, but I’m encouraging you to dust off those dreams and ideas and try to start working them into your day little by little. Don’t worry much about the voices in your head telling you that you’ll never succeed. You can only achieve what you want if you take the chance to get there-and you may become the next J.K. Rowling, or you may have an email box with a label for rejections, but always remember the wise words of Jon Sinclair: Failure is a bruise, not a tattoo.