Monday 5 January 2015

How to Fail Successfully

"The key to not failing is to fail and fail often."  (Max Londberg)

In his valedictory address, Max Londberg encouraged his fellow graduates to fail.  But shouldn't he be encouraging them to succeed?  He said that when we fail, we get rid of trivialities; we no longer worry about pleasing others.  We focus on the task at hand.  Some teachers and parents believe that children/students learn best when they are allowed to make mistakes, when they are encouraged to explore and to draw their own conclusions.  

One study suggests that children who believe that their intelligence is fixed, and that their success is due to their intelligence, do not react well to mistakes.  In fact, their performance on standardized tests dropped 20% over time.  The other group, who believed that their intelligence was not fixed, that it could grow over time, had a more positive reaction to their errors.  Their test scores increased by 30% over time.  

Look at successful historical figures who learned from their many mistakes and disappointments. Winston Churchill said:  "Success is the ability to go from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm."  He would know, given that he didn't even become Prime Minister of Great Britain until the age of 65.  He was well accustomed to failure, but not defeat (remember his "We Shall Never Surrender" speech?).  How about Abraham Lincoln who lost eight elections but was later elected to two terms as President of the United States?  Or how about Thomas Edison who failed 1000 times but created hundreds of successful inventions?  Or Henry Ford who failed and went broke five times before he got his Ford Motor Company up and running in 1903?

Learn the art of failure.  Embrace it.  You could be the next success story.

Note:  To read Max Londberg's graduation speech, click on

Winston Churchill circa 1941 courtesy

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