Encourage them to fail (part one)

(from an email I sent to homeschooling friends)

“Didn’t get to share this with some of you who had to leave early, but here is the transcript of the last part of the interview I told you about and something I would love for all of us to think and talk about: how can we encourage our kids to fail. Basically it means how can we extend their childhood and their willingness to experiment and try things with no regard to a specific result, with no fear of judgment. This becomes really important in the tween/teen years and on… I used to tell my boys that everything in life is like playing a video-game: you try you die (fail), you try you die, you move up a level. However, the “don’t fail” culture out there, the culture that penalizes you when you get an answer wrong on the test, is so strong that we all need to brain-storm and brain-storm some more of how to keep our daring spirit alive for our children and ourselves:

ZAKARIA: So, what do you think when you look back at this? You have no business training. You have no business education. What do you think was the key to your success?

BLAKELY: I mean I would have to say one of the biggest keys to my success was my upbringing and my father. And he was very determined growing up to encourage me to fail.

ZAKARIA: Encourage you to fail.

BLAKELY: So, my dad, at the dinner table, he would ask my brother and me what we had failed at that week. And if we didn’t have a story to tell him, he would actually be disappointed. And I can distinctly remember coming home and saying, “Dad, dad, I tried out for this and I was horrible.” And he’d high-five me and say “Way to go.” And so what happened was he re-framed my thinking on failure. So, failure for me became not trying versus not succeeding. And I think, more than anything, what stifles entrepreneurship and this risk-taking that all these people are sitting on million dollar ideas is the fear of failure. And so that was a real big gift I got from the way I was raised was not to fear that.

(Fareed Zakaria  interviews Sara Blakely, the founder and owner of Spanx, on his weekly program, GPS)”


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