IRCS Blog Central

< Back

How Failure Leads to Success

August 27, 2014
By Perry R. Banse, Assistant Superintendent, Middle/High School Principal

One of the areas that I have been addressing with parents through our orientations this year is the area of how to handle it when their student fails at something. It seems a little weird that anyone would write a blog about failure, doesn’t it? This is especially true when we are talking about your kids. No one wants to see their child fail whether it is behaviorally, academically, or athletically. After all, we are a society bent on success. To quote a famous NASA line from the Apollo 13 mission, “Failure is not an option.” And yet, failure is a part of life.Failure by definition is a) a falling short; b) a weakening; c) a breakdown in operation; d) neglect; e) not succeeding; f) becoming bankrupt. None of these are really very attractive options are they? When looking at this definition, no parent wants their student to fail. But if you look at some of the notable people in history, their response to failure is what made them great.

  • Abraham Lincoln knew failure. He lost eight different elections before becoming the 16th president of the United States.

  • Thomas Edison made thousands of unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb. When a reporter asked him how it felt to fail so many times he replied, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that will not work.”

  • J.K. Rowling’s book about a boy wizard was rejected by twelve publishers before a small London publishing house picked up Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

  • Henry Ford failed and went broke five times before he succeeded. He said, “Failure provides the opportunity to begin again, more intelligently.”

  • Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor because, “he lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” He had several bankruptcies before he built Disneyland. The proposed park was initially rejected by the city of Anaheim because they were afraid it would only attract riffraff. (Guess they didn’t foresee how much it would cost to go there.)

  • R. H. Macy failed seven times before his store in New York City caught on.

So you may be asking, “What’s your point?” The point is that often times in our society we don’t want our children or loved ones to experience failure. When something happens that we consider undesirable, we try to intercede, to protect, or shield them from any hurt or frustration they may feel. This even gets extended to student discipline issues. The action originates from a feeling of love and protection, but in the long run, it stunts the growth that can happen as a result of the consequence. Students learn more and it makes a bigger impact from learning something for themselves “the hard way” than they do from someone removing the consequence from them.

What this means is your child will learn more from failure if you allow them to work through the process without trying to remove the process. I know it’s hard to watch them struggle. How do you think Lincoln, Edison, Rowling, Ford, Disney, and Macy felt? They used the challenges and discouragements in their lives to become better and find success. Or in the case of discipline, students make mistakes. They will learn to not make that same mistake quicker if you don’t try to intercede and get the consequence removed from them. When I went to school, if I got in trouble at school, I was in bigger trouble at home. Or if I received a bad grade on something at school, it was my fault, not the teacher’s.

So at the beginning of a new school year, when the discouragement of failure or the consequence of discipline comes, (and it will) comfort your student. Help them to work their way through the difficulty without trying to remove it from them. They will gain more understanding that will last longer if you do this. Then they can experience how failure leads to success.