I still remember vividly, though it was over fifty years ago, that profound feeling of failure gifted to me by my teachers, parents and even friends, when I got something wrong or made a mistake. Failure was so devastatingly and overwhelmingly a part of my educational experience that it haunted my dreams. Every time I enrolled in a class – even as an adult enrolling in an adult-education sewing class- I had a recurring nightmare that left me shaking and hyperventilating. I dreamt that my professor assigned each student to write overnight something creative in French. I made an absolute mess of a French fairy tale, while the student sitting next to me created a French opera – music and all. I was devastated. How could I be so dumb when others not much brighter than me excelled.
For me pass/fail was demoralizing. Failure didn’t spur me on to try harder in the hopes of succeeding. It stopped me dead in my tracks. I chose not to participate rather than be humiliated. I never chose red-faced embarrassment over anonymity. Who would?
Now I stand in front of a class of 8-11 year olds teaching entrepreneurship and hoping never to associate embarrassment or humiliation with failure, especially in this class where failure is fundamental to an entrepreneur’s success. Albert Einstein attested to the positive power of failure, when he said, “Failure is success in progress”. Teachers and parents must learn this lesson, taught by the man whose name is synonymous with brilliance. If the lesson goes unheeded, then it is our children and their future which are at stake.
When you fail forward, it is the failure that makes you more likely to succeed. As Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player EVER, said, “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
Remember Michael Jordan as you make lemonade out of lemons.
Photo courtesy of: http://www.sneakerfreaker.com/2014/06/michael-jordan-officially-billionaire/