Failure is an Option

I hate failing and I’m sure I’m not alone on this.

I’m always hearing motivational speakers and business/marketing gurus talk about how they love failure and they embrace it as a learning experience.

I think the first part of that last sentence is complete hog wash. I don’t see how anyone can love failure… if they love failure so much then why do they try to succeed?

The second part I do agree with… Every time I fail at something I learn from it:

  1.  I learn not to make the same mistake again
  2.  I learn to approach it from a different angle
  3. I learn where my strengths and my weaknesses are so that I can improve
  4.  I learn humility and try not to beat myself up about it.

The only way not to fail is to not try doing anything and if that’s your goal then you may as well be buried 6 feet deep.

Failure is a part of life that we all have to deal with and it starts from the day we are born.
As babies we fail to crawl until we work out how to use our arms and legs in the right order and build enough physical strength to move ourselves.

Next we fail to walk until we figure out how to balance and then we can walk.
We don’t just give up and stick to crawl-ing around for the rest of our lives because walking seems hard and it’s em-barrassing when we fail to do it.

Embarrassment is a learned trait that young kids don’t have which is why they learn so much in the first few years. They want to know and learn and do everything and they don’t worry about who’s watching or what someone will think if they fail to get things right.

Kids just keep trying until they succeed and then they find another thing to learn. This keeps happening until we introduce the concept of failure to them.

We unconsciously pass on our fears of embarrassment about failing and even-tually make them self-conscious about their own failures.

Here’s a great example that another instructor forwarded to me:

“Recently I was playing a card matching game with a friends two young girls.

 The first game went well with the older girl winning by a landslide. She’s a smart girl and has a good memory.

In the second game she had a bad run of luck turning the cards over and reveal-ing the missing cards for the next person to swoop on to make a pair.

With only 10 cards left in the game to be matched she suddenly buried her head into the couch and started crying… She had just realized that there were not enough cards left in play for her to win this game and threw a sulky tantrum.

Her Mom was quick to defend her and explain that she’s very good at the game and that she doesn’t like losing so they always make sure she wins. If she loses she gets all embarrassed and sulks ruin-ing the game for everyone.

I love my friends but it shocked me that they chose to always rig the game so their child never lost rather than teach her that when you play you can win or lose.

Their solution is a very short term fix that is setting up their daughter for massive disappointments when she starts school and realizes that she can’t win everything all the time.”

Now I don’t think I have all the answers because all kids react differently to things but her Mom’s explanation re-vealed a lot…

“If she loses she gets all embarrassed”

Rather than protect her from failure by cheating I think they should teach her that there is nothing embarrassing about losing.

I’ve been a great believer in Positive Reinforcement for as long as I can re-member. Simply put, you praise success or correct actions/behavior so that the child/student repeats and improves the action or behavior to continue receiving the positive feedback.

If you use Negative Reinforcement you point out and focus on mistakes and eventually the child gives up trying be-cause the fear of failure out weighs the rewards of success.

We need to be mindful that kids are always learning and they learn very quickly.

Teach them to enjoy winning, but also teach them to learn when they lose.

There is nothing wrong with losing or failing to achieve a goal if you learn from it and improve on your next at-tempt.

Teach them that they can only really lose if they GIVE UP!

If they lose during a competition tell them what they can do next time to have a better fight.

Teach them that they are great kids and that you’re proud of them because you can see how hard they are all trying and that you can see them improving every time.

Explain that there is nothing to be embarrassed about if they didn’t succeed the first time. With practice and a posi-tive attitude they will always continue improving.


Kids are born with this attitude but un-fortunately adults pass down their own fears.

I believe that kids need to learn the realities of the world. That sometimes things go wrong, sometimes you will lose at something, it takes effort to be the best at something.

But I also believe that we need to protect their adventurous spirit and belief that they can do almost anything. Because coming back around full circle the thing that makes all the great athletes, leaders, entrepreneurs so successful is their ability to deal with failure and move past it.

The world would be a better place if more people didn’t give up when they failed the first time.

By: Master Bell


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