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Failure is Not an Option

Authored By: 
Vanilla Macias-Rodriguez, Science Teacher

I hail from the great state of Texas where everything is bigger and better, and the true spirit of competition is still alive on high school football fields every Friday night in the fall. I grew up in a house where a B was failing and not bringing home the pageant crown was unacceptable. My Mexican-American mom was a Tiger Mom before extreme parenting was cool.  I think my Texas roots and upbringing shaped the high expectations that I hold each of my students to today.

Several one-time failures owe their success to subscribing to these same high expectations.  We’ve all heard the stories about how Elvis got a D in music and Michael Jordan didn’t make the varsity basketball team. Did you know that the guy who invented Post-Its, Art Fry, used a failed super glue formula, and Alexander Fleming was studying bacteria when a mold began to grow in one of his petri dishes and he accidentally discovered penicillin?  Though they may have started as failures, their ultimate success was the result of hard work. 

Just to prove it, here are a few points on these “accidental” heroes:

Elvis Presley

  • "I don't regard money or position as important. But I can never forget the longing to be someone. I guess if you are poor, you always think bigger and want more than those who have everything when they are born."
  • Elvis worked his way up from the projects in Memphis to a mansion known as Graceland.
  • "I lose myself in my singing. Maybe it's my early training singing gospel hymns. I'm limp as a rag, worn out when a show's over."

Michael Jordan

  • On not making the team: "It was embarrassing not making that team," said Jordan, the owner of two Olympic gold medals. "They posted the roster and it was there for a long, long time without my name on it. I remember being really mad, too, because there was a guy who made it that really wasn't as good as me."
  • "Whenever I was working out and got tired and figured I ought to stop, I'd close my eyes and see that list in the locker room without my name on it, and that usually got me going again."
  • Ruby Sutton, Jordan’s phys. ed. teacher at Laney High School: "He never wanted to lose in anything. That was in-born into him. I normally get to school between 7 and 7:30. Michael would be at school before I would. Every time I'd come in and open these doors, I'd hear the basketball. Fall, wintertime, summertime. Most mornings I had to run Michael out of the gym."

Art Fry

  • Spencer Silver actually created the adhesive used on Post-Its in 1968, but it was Fry who realized how a non-adhesive adhesive could actually be useful.  While he recognized the potential in 1974, it took some reformulating and a lot of convincing to bring the product to market in 1980.  It currently grosses over a billion dollars a year for the 3M Company.

Alexander Fleming

  • Discovered the antibacterial quality of penicillin in a failed experiment in 1928, which led to the isolation of the active ingredient and mass production of antibiotics in 1940.

The lesson here is:  Success takes work.  Welcome to high school. This is just the beginning.  If you work hard to meet and exceed the expectations set by your instructors, there’s a better chance you’ll pass your classes, get in to the school of your dreams, and open yourself to a world of future possibilities.  Fail and the harsh reality is that success is not impossible, but it is a tougher road.  If you’ve chosen to attend The Beekman School, consider yourself lucky.  Our supportive faculty and staff, flexible scheduling, small class sizes and community of scholars will challenge you to succeed the first time, but we’re also here to help you overcome any initial failures you may encounter.

We are welcoming students to class this fall either via a hybrid in-person/online learning model in NYC or via fully remote, synchronous online classes. 

Learn more about our re-opening plan and response to COVID-19 >