Encourage them to fail (part two)

…so let us start the failure revolution!

We need to step off this insane model, which punishes failure or not getting it right, instead of using it to learn what works and what doesn’t.

A  friend of mine, who is a businessperson, told me he does not take failing too seriously. He does not go deeply into it, analyzes it or dwells much on it. Being dyslexic, he got a lot of practice failing when young and learned to brush it off and move on. He sees this attitude as an advantage over people who got used to being perceived as successful. They hold back less they fail, while he just tries things until something works.

We allow babies to fail like this all the time, without much fanfare. Not when they fall and not when they eventually walk. We expect them to fall and then get up. Fall again and then get up again, until finally they learn to walk steady. Why do we later expect that learning  any other new thing will be different?  It is the same process.

A  homeschooling friend recently told me that her 10 years old son,  asked his soccer buddy the following question: “How strict is your imagination?” to which the buddy answered without hesitation: “very strict.” I thought it was a priceless question!

A strict imagination is a side effect of constant judgment. Let us free our imagination again. Let us not take failure so seriously. It is truly just a step in the learning process, of anything! And, it can make life so much more interesting. Ask your child, or any gamer you know and they will tell you that the good games are hard to figure out. You will fail much on your way to leveling-up and beating the game. Moreover, as long as you are still failing, the game is extremely engaging. Once, you have mastered it, though, you will likely stop playing it and go look for another game; one that will offer you many more opportunities to fail again before you eventually master that one, too.

The key to changing our culture around the issue of failing and stop living so carefully is to adopt this gaming model. Define the “real life game” you are currently playing and set-up your “leveling-up” goals, one at a time, until you master the level and can move on. For much fun, you can also define to yourself the “boss” you need to fight and defeat at the end of each level, before you can declare success!

Play this game with your children, too, to teach them that life is not really different then the games they love. And that when it comes to a healthy attitude towards failing, video-games have it while school and the culture it creates, does not.

Recommended reading for more on this subject:

David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell

Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal


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