What is Failure?

So I have had the idea of failure on my mind for awhile. I recall a student I had who suffered from this mentality that he could not accomplish the things before him. Even before we started an activity (even one that was done together) he would say things like “I can’t do this” or “this is too hard.”

I tried to build up his confidence and remind him that he can do things. I often wondered if this was a real mentality or some sort of crutch he would use as a way of getting out of working hard. I wish I could get into his head and figure out why he thinks that. However, I don’t have that “Gift”. Maybe one day.

But this brings me to my initial question: what is failure? Now the easy answer is when you mess something up or don’t get it right. However, I would disagree. We have so many chances in our country. My dad came from a foreign country, worked hard, and became a self made man because he never gave up.

He wasn’t instantly successful, and he made plenty of mistakes that could have ended his career. Like that coffee business. That was interesting. Let’s just say he will never need to pick up coffee again. However, my dad continued to work and do his best.

So, now for my perspective on what failure is. I hope you care, otherwise this would be weird. I personally think failure only really happens when we completely give up. If we continue to try, even in the midst of falling short of our goal, then we won’t fail in the end. One of the most common quotes I use with my students about this topic is from Edison. He tried over 10,000 experiments to create a lightbulb that didn’t work. But what did he say? “I have not failed. I just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”


I think this is so sobering. Even if we fall on our faces 10,000 times. If we get up, we just learned another way that doesn’t work. 

These are some of the things I share with my students:

  1. Sometimes you actually have to work hard. Not everything in life is going to come easy. It is always surprising to me when a student is surprised that they have to put forth more than the simplest of effort into something. Sometimes you will have to try a problem over and over again before you get it right.
  2. Developing thick skin is really important. I posted awhile ago about taking correction. Sometimes we need advise on how to continue. Sometimes that correction doesn’t sit well with it. But, you know what? That correction might be exactly what we needed to hear.
  3. Try, try again. Never stop until you meet the success you want. Whatever you goal is. Keep working at the task at hand until you achieve you dream. I know you can do it.