Failure and Its Positive Role in Learning

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Aunt Billy from the Disney film Meet the Robinsons said, “From failing, you learn. From success, not so much”. 

Since our resources for this module ended with our supplemental reading of the term failure and what it means to learning, this was the one that stuck with me.

Success Magazine recognizes the value of failure in attaining success; in fact, the sweetest victory is one which was most difficult to attain. We have all heard of the failures of Michael Jordan (and his hundreds of failed shots), Thomas Alba Edison (this is so cliche, right?), Henry Ford, the Wright brothers, Walt Disney, and many others.

Unlike Edison and his comrades mentioned above, a lot of us veer away from failure. We are bent on not failing that we no longer aim for the highest form of success. This ends up in mediocrity since missteps are highlighted and miscalculations laughed at.

Here lies the mistake. We have always been wrong about what it means to be not right. The human capacity to err is not a sign of inferiority in one’s intellect but is actually a step towards cognition.

Okay, failure isn’t always bad. It is actually inevitable and is oftentimes good when one is in the process of learning. While no one likes the word failure – I don’t like it, I’m sure no one on the face of the earth does – but it is inevitable if we want to learn more deeply, more comprehensively.

Try counting the number of setbacks that you’ve had in college life. If you have never failed then, chances are, you have not tried hard. Failure is no less than the refiner’s fire. The greatest philosophers, doctors, inventors, teachers and politicians in history have failed and they have failed often.

Failure should be seen as an opportunity to grow and never as loss or deficit. It is a tool that will help one recognize why failure occurred and how one can rise from it. It pays to ask oneself some questions during failure –

  • What caused the failure?
  • How can I turn this failure into success?
  • What steps do I need to take to try all over again?
  • How do I ensure that I will now do more intelligently?

Failure can also help a learner build his character. It can be a strong motivator that will consistently prod you to move forward.

Let us remember, fellow classmates, that success is given to those who are ready to take it and this takes determination, willpower, grit and, yes, intelligence, too.

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