Yes, you read the title correctly. Here are my four kids. I love them all dearly, and I want them to fail!
Ok, take a deep breath, lower your heart rate, and let me explain why. I want my kids to be successful; I want them to be passionate; I want them to achieve their dreams. You may be thinking, but you just said you want them to fail! And yes, you are correct, I want them to fail because I know ultimately that failure, with some gumption and stick-to-it-ness, leads to success. I love this graphic and I think it gives a simple depiction of what I am trying to express.
Then we look at the greatest inventors, artists, musicians, athletes, or actors, we see the end product – the top of their game. We say: “I wish I could be like that, they are so lucky.” When in all honesty, luck has nothing to do with it. Masters of any field have worked unbelievably hard to reach the highest level. In the book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell says it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. More interestingly, he found that no “naturally gifted” performers floated to the top of their field with fewer hours. Natural ability was not the key factor in determining success; practice and determination led to greatness — nothing else! The problem is most people are not willing to work that hard. Most people want the success, but then when presented with the work and practice regiment it would take to achieve that success they say: “no thank you, that is too much work.” They make excuses or blame circumstances, when in fact, the reason they did not reach the highest level, is they were not willing to commit themselves to what it takes. How does failure play into all of this? Well consider the questions below.
Are we preparing our students for the path or are we preparing the path for our students?
So back to my own kids… I want to make sure as a parent, I am preparing my own kids for the path not the path for my kids. If I prepare the path for my kids, I find ways to make their challenges easier for them. In the effort to make them comfortable, I rob them from the opportunity to truly succeed. If my kids only set safe goals (ones that they know they will achieve without much work), then they will only get mediocre results and will never reach their true potential. They will never know how much they could have achieved if they would have pushed themselves even though failure may have been a possibility. I want my kids to strive for goals that are big and audacious; goals that may very well lead to failure. Failure often comes from dreaming big and chasing those dreams. And, in this case, failure is all right. Vince Lombardi once said: “Gentlemen, we are going to relentlessly chase perfection, knowing full well we will never catch it, because nothing is perfect. But, we are going to relentlessly chase it, because in the process we will catch excellence. I am not remotely interested in just being good.” Implied in the quote is the notion of failure. If you chase the big, audacious goal of perfection, you know you will fail in the quest. However you can also have confidence you will achieve a great deal more than you would have if you played it safe and just tried to be good. I hope I am teaching, and showing my kids that most things in life that are worth doing take a lot of hard work and effort. That’s life. Encountering problems, discouragement, and disappointment is inevitable. So, we should not spend our lives avoiding the storms, but embracing the storms and learning from that journey. The only way to find the limits of what is possible is to test those limits, see where they exist, and do everything to push past what most consider to be possible. There, and only there, will we find greatness!
In closing, I will say it again: I want my kids to fail! I want them to fail because that means they are pushing towards greatness. They are leaving the comfort and complacency of just being good behind, as they are trying to achieve great things. Failure is not the opposite of success; failure is a vital part of ultimately achieving success.
I will leave you with a quote to consider from Josh Medcalf and Jamie Gilbert, authors of Burn Your Goals, “If you really wanted it as bad as you say you do, then you would do radically different things with your time.”
How do you plan on spending your time this school year? Are you going to play it safe to ensure you can achieve your goals of just being “good”? Or, are you going to push yourself, knowing full well, that in the risk you are taking you might fail? I hope you choose the latter. But know that by taking on that risk of failure while trying to achieve lofty goals, you might have a chance to capture greatness in your classroom for your students. Your classroom, your choice. I choose the possibility of failure!
Keep learning; keep growing; keep sharing!