pen rainbow

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Sunday—Fail This Week!

Why failure is not the same as unsuccessful

Failing Toward Success

"Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to 
success when they gave up.”   --Thomas Edison

Thomas A. Edison_AP Photo
Was told by his teachers that he was "too stupid to learn anything."

I'll never forget the day that I answered a question incorrectly in a group lecture at UC Berkeley.  I was nonplussed when a typical upper-div know-it-all promptly pointed out why my answer was incorrect.  He didn't have the right answer, but he knew that my answer was incorrect.  When 200 pairs of bloodshot, sleep-deprived eyes turned toward me, I responded that failure is just a part of learning at UC Berkeley, and wasn't that why we were all there in the first place?  To fail some of the time?

Well, good gawd, NO!  We were not all there to FAIL.  Was I insane?  We were there to stomp our competition into the ground with our superior intellects.  Murmurings of discomfort pulsed through the lecture hall as the class began to ponder the meaning of failure, something students at CAL tend to avoid like the plague.  Could failure actually be something positive?  

The flip side of success is failure, and like it or not, they are two sides of the same process.  I did not enter UC Berkeley to pit my intellect against every other student, and I honestly didn't give a crap if I got a wrong answer.  I was there to learn, and guessing or coming up with a wrong conclusion was part of it.  35 years later, I'm still not afraid of a wrong answer.  Actually, I am more interested in why things don't work than I am in why they do.

At least, one college professor agrees with that idea.  Williams College Professor of Mathematics, Edward Burger, asks his students to share their errors in class.  How liberating would that be to learn in an environment that is receptive to mistakes, where students are not terrified to speak up?  Especially in a subject as absolute as math.

Click HERE to read Professor Burger's inspiring article, 
Teaching to Fail (21 August 2012).


Go boldly into this week!  These folks did...

From BusinessInsider.com, 23 Incredibly Successful People Who Failed At First, by Richard Feloni and Ashley Lutz (7 March 2014)


Fired by a newspaper editor because he "lacked imagination and had no good ideas."

Walt Disney_AP Photo
Failed to make the U.S. Olympic figure skating team_Became an editor at Vogue
& was passed over for the Editor-in-Chief position

Vera Wang_Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP

Ostracized by the Japanese business community for his Western-style business model

Soichiro Honda_Getty Images/The Asahi Shimbun

A film studio executive wrote, "Can't sing. Can't act. Slightly balding. Can dance a little."

Fred Astaire_AP Photo

His first book was rejected by 27 different publishers.

Theodor Suess Geisel_aka Dr. Seuss_AP Photo

From Wikipedia

Raised in Alabama under Jim Crow laws & fired from her job as a seamstress 
in a local department store.

Rosa Parks_National Archives/Ebony Magazine

His music teacher said,
"As a composer, he is hopeless."

Ludwig Van Beethoven_Painting by Carl Traugott Riedel

Failures, repeated failures, are finger posts on
 the road to achievement. One fails forward toward success.