It’s Okay to Fail

Learning to fail is counter-intuitive to everything we’ve been taught since we were school kids.

In fact, most educational systems are designed around the concept: do things right and you get ahead. Those who do otherwise are considered problematic to say the least. We, as children, learn over time that failure was something to be avoided. The hope was, that by keeping the kids in line, children would grow up to be successful adults.

This is not often the case, however.

A study conducted by Karen Arnold, a researcher at Boston College, followed the careers of 81 high school valedictorians and salutatorians from graduation onward. What she found that while 90 percent of the original batch are now in professional careers, none of them went on to “change the world, run the world, or impress the world”.

Make no mistake: those kids aren’t doing too badly these days. The majority of them, now mature young men and women, are living good lives with 40 percent of the original sample at the highest tier jobs in their respective workplaces. Considering what they had going for them back then however, you’d think they’d be more now.

They are reliable, consistent, and well-adjusted but not really outstanding.

According to research, what makes students likely to be impressive in the classroom is not the same thing that will make them impressive in life. Most educational systems reward students who know how to follow instructions and those who make the least amount of mistakes gets rewarded the most. But most of the time those who get good grades get better at just that: getting good grades.

Karen Arnold said, “essentially, we are rewarding conformity and the willingness to go along with the system.”

That’s not how the real world works (most of the time).

I am an avid reader. One of my favorite genres are biographies, especially of people of renown. What I found is that the majority of noteworthy people share three things:

  • They’re not afraid to go against the norm
  • They’re unbelievably tenacious
  • They’re not afraid to fail and fail a lot
  • They learn from their mistakes

Not exactly something that is taught in most schools these days which is a shame, really.

Because the hard truth is that failure is a part of success.

I can tell you with certainty that everyone who is considered a success in this world has encountered failure many times. The only difference is that they embrace it, learn what they can from the experience, and soldier on.

I believe that learning to fail is aboslutely essential for the next generation to succeed.

Failure, after all, teaches us more than success.

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