Being a Leader: Part 3: Mistakes and Failure are a Part of Success
“Dude, sucking at something is the first step to being sorta good at something.”
-Jake the Dog, Adventure Time Theater
Who says that there’s no wisdom in cartoons? Sometimes it’s as if the characters say things to us that our parents and teachers can’t. Failure and mistakes are scary, and when we fail or make mistakes, we feel scared and ashamed. It hurts, and sometimes we can’t explain why we failed and figure out why we made that mistake, often because we don’t know why ourselves. The fears are pretty complex, and so is the hurt, but you have to believe that failure and mistakes are not some scary monster that will ruin your whole life, even if some people are mean about it. Failure is there to help you learn. Mistakes help you to figure out how to do it right.
When you start learning there’s a thing called a learning curve, and it plots the process of something called “performance against practice.” When you start to learn anything, it’s hard at first. It doesn’t matter if it’s learning to walk, or multiply and divide, or Taekwondo, or coding. People make mistakes, and people fail, and in the middle of making mistakes and failing, they are learning. They are not only learning what to do in order to do it right, they are learning what doesn’t work. That’s as important, or maybe even more important than knowing only what works.
It’s a Bad Day – Not a Bad Life
“Don’t be afraid to fail. Whether you fear it or not, disappointment will come. The beauty is that with true disappointment you can gain clarity, and with clarity comes conviction and true originality.”
–Conan O’Brien, entertainer
There are lots of people throughout history who have had failures and made mistakes. I don’t doubt that they were hurt, and sometimes sad, and sometimes ashamed. They had a bad day, but that didn’t make it a bad life. Even if they had a lot of bad days, they kept trying until one day something worked, and it worked really well. Even then, they didn’t stop having failures or making mistakes, they took that success and moved forward. Even when people called them names, even when it hurt, they still kept trying. Don’t be afraid, and don’t feel alone, because you’re in the company of greats when you fail. Even Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein had failures, and many other famous and not-so famous people did, too.
There are some great books about making mistakes and failing, and you can check them out at the library, download them to your tablet, or find them at the bookstore.
- Rosie Revere, Engineer, by Andrea Beaty
- Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg
- The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes, by Mark Pett and Gary Rubinstein
- The Most Magnificent Thing, by Ashley Spires
And if you are afraid of failing, talk to your teachers and let them help you find a way to not fail. They want you to succeed just as much as you want to succeed.