What has failure taught you?
I can't stand failing- it's the worst. I try so hard to avoid it at all costs. The most painful memories of my past are about failure. Getting cut from the team, getting caught cheating on a test, cheating on a girlfriend, and getting fired (several times) are all stops on my personal walk of shame.
But, you won't be surprised to hear me say this: I'm so thankful I went through those failures.
Failure taught me about persistence. It helped me look in the mirror and ask myself tough questions about who I am and who I want to be. It freed me from a few obligations that, in hindsight, I was stuck in.
There's not a failure I can remember where I didn't grow immensely because of it- mostly because I had people in my life who supported me. My mom was a key figure to guide me through my failures- she always would tell me the truth yet hold me in acceptance and grace. My wife has done the same. I've had friends along the way who've picked me up and helped me process what I went through.
Having a supportive guide is critical to help us learn from our failures.
A guide's role is to come alongside someone to help them interpret reality and see clearly. Everyone needs a guide; kids especially. A guide will ask probing questions and be an accurate, honest mirror.
There are two aspects of our culture that concern me when it comes to failure:
1. Image Management Our world has tipped heavily towards image management. The message is: "You are what others think about you." Maintain a positive image at all costs. Sure, we can blame social media and extremely competitive college admissions- they perpetuate the idea that we're only as good as our brand.
2. Protection Parenting We also have to look in the mirror at our own parenting. We don't want our kids to feel the discomfort of failure, so we protect them, prevent them, and knockdown obstacles for them. We don't hold them accountable- we blame teachers, district policies, coaches, or 'other groups' of people.
If we don't let our kids fail, they won't learn significant truths about life.
They won't learn about persistence. They won't be able to discern what's actually most important. They won't be able to learn their true worth comes from within, not from their reputation. They won't learn that they can handle hard things, and they will be predisposed to avoid taking risks.
A key foundation element for being prepared to build a meaningful life is the experience of learning from failure, and the willingness to take risks.
For years we’ve been studying what a young person needs in order to transition into a healthy, thriving adulthood.
They're uncommon sense ideas, really.
Download this checklist and use it with your students (or kids).