A recent NYT article “What if the Secret to Success is Failure?” is long by today's snack food reading standards but served up a VERY full course meal of great food for thought and is well worth your time to read no matter if you are a student, parent, teacher and indeed aren't we all of these simultaneously.
I'm a huge fan of failure and remain puzzled and curious as to why it has come to be such a negative thing in many societies and communities. Something to be avoided at all cost. Maybe it is because I fail so often, many times every day, always have and hope I always will, that I have come to love failure. What I love most is learning and I figured out a long time ago that learning and failure are inexorably linked and almost synonymous. No learning without failure and no failure without learning. Every time something goes wrong or does not work out for me, my first instinct is to ask "What is this trying to teach me?" or "What can I learn from this?" and each time I find the answer my learning goes up significantly. Part of the reason perhaps that I also go for experiential learning every chance I can. What I’ve learned along the way is that failure IS the “secret” to success in learning, love and life.
I mention all this for some context as to why this article resonates so deeply with me, along with my years as a high school teacher, a parent and an insatiably curious learner. Learning is hard and figuring out how to do it well, especially in the more formal setting of education and training is particularly so. I think we all know this and yet most discussions and programs seem to assume the opposite and come up with overly simplistic explanations of the problem and matching shallow solutions.
It is therefore refreshing to see this complex challenge being treated with such seriousness and vigor as outlined in this article. You may disagree with the specifics or perhaps the whole approach the two schools in this article are taking and I hope you will indeed reflect upon your experiences to critically consider their approaches. However I also think your experiences will have shown you that “character traits” are more than anything else, the underlying factors leading to true success; a happy, meaningful, productive life.
Think about it; whether you are considering a new job applicant, a student, your children, your partner or best of all, the person you see in the mirror, don’t you find that it is traits such as
“zest, grit, self-control, social intelligence, gratitude, optimism and curiosity”
that have most determined your success? Isn’t it when you have failed to do as well as you know you could in these areas that you have learned the most and gone on to be that much stronger, smarter and successful?
Whatever your answers and thoughts are to these questions, please do give this a read and your careful consideration. I know many of you who follow my writing and speaking are in the learning, education and training fields and will find this particularly relevant. Moreover though I think there is much to be learned here for every one of us snowflakes as we too strive to succeed a bit better each day at living a happy, meaningful and productive life.
I hope you will get as much out of reading this article as much as I did and will give it your thoughtful consideration, talk about this notion of “character based learning” with your friends, family and colleagues and continue the conversation with your own posts, articles, FB updates, Tweets and talks,