Failure: The Greatest Teacher

Is failure a requirement for achieving success?

McKenna DeRiese

I can remember the first time I failed as if it just happened. Well a C+ in my seventh grade math class but, it was the closest thing to failing I had ever done in my life at that time.

I was absolutely devastated.

Students, like myself, believe we are defined by what our grade in a class is. I’ve heard high schoolers say, “I got a D, I’m obviously stupid,” or,  my personal favorite, “Why am I such a failure?”

Failure is always tied with negativity.

According to the Atlantic, 26 percent of high schoolers at 2 elite high schools located on the East Coast had been diagnosed with depression—over four times the national average of 6 percent. Although the sampling size is only 2 high schools, this information allows one to have a real evaluation of what high school is like.

Students are under an excruciating amount of pressure for this idea of perfection which causes unfortunate mental disorders like anxiety and depression to deeply affect students, even carrying into their adulthood, well after graduating school.

So, seeing your grade drop from a B to a C  is a detrimental sight, I know, but in reality it is exactly what we need. Total loss allows one to step back, examine, and correct our mistakes as well as giving us a nice, big slice of humble pie.

Utter defeat is a beautiful thing, an amazing situation that allows me to understand just how awesome and beautifully messy life can be.

Okay, maybe it’s not incredible, but defeat does urge you to evaluate and realize things you would not have seen before, allowing you to truly learn what was maybe skimmed before and have a deeper understanding. And with the knowledge you gained through that failure, it really is an amazing thing.

What if Thomas Edison stopped his electricity experiment after failing one time? Then, we wouldn’t have the light bulb.

What if Walt Disney gave up on cartooning right after he got fired from his first job for not being creative enough? Then, we wouldn’t have many of the beloved disney movies or any of the Disney empire.

Failure is as powerful a tool as any in reaching great success.

Failure and defeat are life’s greatest teachers but many individuals don’t want to experience the emotional deprivation that comes with it.

Defeat terrifies students. We are conditioned to believe the amount of success you’ve achieved is demonstrated by the letter grade you get in a class or on a test.

Many students struggle with the idea of perfection. If only I could get an A on this assignment, test, class, then I’ll be happy. At one point of our lives all of our ideas of perfection are going to a head.

Something you put so much time into, so much effort, will fail. It’s inevitable, there’s nothing you can do to fix it. The only thing you can do is accept you’re not perfect, pick up the pieces, and carry them with you as a lesson you can learn from.

This victory is the one that requires you to reach down deep inside yourself and to fight with everything you’ve got– even if there’s a solid chance you’re going to fall on your butt.

You need to be willing to leave everything out there on the table, so to have the satisfaction of victory one needs to realize and accept the risk of failure and how it is a key player in this game as well.

In order to truly appreciate prosperity we need to know what it’s like to be at the bottom. To know a time when everything wasn’t going smooth and steady.

Another key factor is having the right mindset when dealing with failure. If you address it with a fixed mindset, the chance that this will become a learning experience is negligible.

Take the previous example of Thomas Edison, who failed over 1,000 times before finding what we take for granted, the light bulb. According to the business magazine titled, “Success,” society doesn’t reward defeat, and you won’t find many failures documented in history books.

The exceptions are those failures that become steppingstones to later success. A reporter asked, “How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?” and Edison responded “I didn’t fail 1,000 times, the light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”
Unlike Edison, many of us avoid the prospect of failure. In fact, we’re so focused on not failing that we don’t aim for success, settling instead for a life of mediocrity.

Pain and embarrassment are what causes positive changes that cause a student to become more grounded, authentic and ultimately effective.

It is exactly when you get humbled that you become humble.

I wish I could tell you everything is going to be okay, how now since you’ve accepted failure is a part of life you can just skip through sunny fields, stress free, singing your favorite show tunes but, that’s not true.

You’re always going to have stress and a hectic schedule, whatever you choose to do with your life. All I can do for you is tell you advice I’ve learned the hard way in an effort to show you all of your hard work isn’t for nothing if what you’re working on isn’t perfect.

My advice: The next time you see a bad grade on a paper or fail a quiz, before the sobbing starts, try to look at the bigger picture: you’ll gain perseverance and humility and may even have the chance to understand the material even more.

So, does this mean the big, bad, monster that is failure, dare I say it… valuable?