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Failure: An Invaluable Component of a True Education

Authored By: 
Raven Koch, Business Manager

It is the failures in our lives, rather than the successes, that have guided our way toward expertise.  Failure is a profound teacher.  The experience of failure can show us how to improve.  Success only demonstrates what we’ve already learned.  In fact, too much success, coming too easily, can lead to boredom, loss of interest, and over-confidence.  When failure is repeatedly experienced, but success still seems possible, people are driven to improve in order to achieve the reward of success.  It is the failures themselves that teach us the way to that success.

We are fortunate that failure presents such opportunities for growth and mastery, because most people experience many more failures than successes. In fact, the more failures you experience, the more likely it is that your eventual success will be bigger and sweeter than someone who has failed less often at the same task.  Take any profession as an example.  Let’s look at acting.  Let’s define success in this profession as the winning of awards for acting.  Chances are, every Oscar-winning actor has failed more times than most less-successful actors can even imagine. Engineering is another rich example.  In order to truly design something new and useful that has never been created before, many models and prototypes must be developed, and must fail, so that the final outcome can be crafted into a great innovation.

Failure can deepen our commitment, solidify our resolve, hone our ambition, and force innovation.  Of course, repeated failures can also be discouraging, which is why great successes are uncommon experiences.  People often do not allow themselves the patience and mental flexibility they need to utilize failure in a positive way.  Fortunately, all that is required is a change of perspective.  Rather than seeing your failures as a message to stop trying, see them as a prompt to try harder or try a different strategy.  And don’t worry if you fail to capitalize on a particular failure.  There will be another one right around the corner!

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