Have your kids failed enough today? You might think that they fail too much every day. But what about celebrating some of those failures instead of just correcting or chastising them? That’s what the father of billionaire entrepreneur Sara Blakely did on a daily basis. She shares this routine confessional of her childhood in the Inc article “Billionaire CEO Sara Blakely Says These 7 Words Are the Best Career Advice She Ever Got” (thanks Karen) which is also echoed in her interview above:

  • “Yet when asked what the best advice she ever received was, she doesn’t talk about success. Instead, she talks about how, as a child, her father would sit her down at the dining room table and ask her the same question: ‘What did you fail at this week?’ He didn’t want to know how many As she’d gotten. He wasn’t interested in how many girl scout cookies she’d sold, how many goals she’d scored on her soccer team, or whether she’d gotten a perfect score on her math test. No, he wanted to know what she had failed at. And when she told him, do you know what his reaction was? He high-fived her.”

The documentary film ‘Race To Nowhere” looks the stresses on children to succeed in education these days highlighted the same message in the review by Cynthia Joyce”

  • “There’s a key scene in the documentary ‘Race to Nowhere’ when a high school student asks, ‘If I can’t fail, and make mistakes, then how can I be expected to learn?’ Such a question might earn a stern slap on the wrist from ‘Tiger Mom’ Amy Chua. But it’s an astute observation and one that drives home the main point of the film: that our preoccupation with testing and performance has undermined actual learning in the classroom, and may even be threatening the healthy development of kids, who frequently feel overwhelmed by the pressure to excel at all costs.”

These comments reminded me of a “Working Families” conference where I presented a paper. Lancashire (Gen Y) student on the panel provided the obverse perspective of not embracing failure in one’s childhood:

  • “Generation Y have grown up having never had to deal with failure (because often you got an award for just showing up) and as a result they often have difficulty taking critical feedback. I remember when I first failed at something at school, it nearly crushed me. There is a fragility in Gen Y that comes from this lack of having to confront failure.”

 

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