Friday, January 6, 2012

"I Wasn't Losing, I Was Learning How To Win" Ted Turner

failureImage by 'PixelPlacebo' via FlickrThe character education word of the week at my school is self-confidence.  I was talking today with a first grade teacher, who always spends a good bit of time talking to her students about character education. She asked her students to share with me what they learned self-confidence means.  One student said, "Facing your fears."  One student said, "Being brave."  One student apparently went home and told her mother that they were learning about self-constipation in class this week... No doubt, her mother was a little surprised at the turn the first grade curriculum had taken...

There has been a lot of concern in recent years about self-esteem and self-confidence.  Both qualities are important aspects of a well-rounded character, however one problem we have created in the interest of making sure that all children have high self-esteem is that we have tried to eliminate failure from our children's lives.  Both at school and at home we focus on how students can be successful and certainly we all want every child to feel successful in something.  We want to identify, develop and celebrate our strengths.  However, we also need to make sure that we don't protect children from occasionally failing at something.  Why?  Because we all learn a great deal from failure.  Sometimes I think we learn more from failure than we do from success.

Many of life's great lessons are learned from failure or hardship.  In fact, if you look into the background of many successful leaders past and present, you will find early lives of adversity.  I'm not suggesting of course that we create hardship, there is enough of that to go around!  I am saying that instead of avoiding failure, we need to teach children the right perspective for viewing failure.  We need to teach them to expect that there will be times of hardship and disappointment but that  if they will put into practice what they have learned from it, they can turn failure into success.  We need to teach children that failure should challenge them to do more or act differently or to become better, but not to give up.

One way we can do this is by example.  We can teach children about well -known people who have overcome failure and continued to create a successful life. There are numerous examples of people who had significant periods of failure in their lives. In the political arena, Abraham Lincoln lost 6 different elections. Thomas Edison's teachers thought he was too stupid to learn anything.  In addition, he  had 1,000 failed attempts before he created the light bulb.  When asked how it felt to fail 1,000 times, he replied, " I didn't fail 1000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 stops." In the title of this post, we see Ted Turner's response to how he kept going when his sailing team lost year after year and his baseball team came in last four years in a row (before winning the World Series).  His perception of failure resulted in him ultimately becoming successful.  We need to make sure that students learn that success often comes out of failure.

Most importantly though, we can demonstrate learning from failure in our own lives.  We can share with our children how we have coped with adversity and how we have learned from it.  How we handle failure will be a blueprint for our children as they face failure in their own.  What about you?  Has failure or hardship been something that has ultimately shaped your life for the better?  What do you think children need to learn about failure?


  1. Yes, Lynne, you have captured this concept perfectly! We all learn more from our failures than from our successes. It is so important to pass on to our children that success isn't made in a day, it is earned through the trial and error of a lifetime.
    Learning and failure and success never stop as long as we draw breath. May we give the right encouragement to all through our own experience.
    Blessings to you and thanks for a terrific post!

  2. This has been a hard lesson for me to learn! I always thought failure was ...well failure and should be avoided. Now I realize how important it is to success. Thanks for your comment.

  3. Hi Lynne, great post. All those greats you've mentioned are my heroes. I learned so much from their lives, especially Ted Turner. When asked if he wasn't afraid of dying after the ocean race that claimed a number of lives, he responded that he was more afraid of losing than he was of dying.
    That's real focus and dogged detrmination.