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Failure & Learning

“It’s fine to celebrate success, but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure” – Bill Gates

Nobody likes to fail, right? Whether it be a bad grade, failing a test or not getting a job you really wanted, failing can feel like a real set-back. But failure is an important part of learning; failure gives us the opportunity to improve.

Those who have reached great success have rarely made it without a few speed bumps. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, Bill Gates dropped out of college and his first business was a complete failure. Albert Einstein was unable to speak properly until he was 9 years old, and he was expelled from school!

So, what can we learn from failure?

1. Reflection

Failure allows us to reflect on why we did not succeed. Reflection is a powerful learning tool, as it forces us to face the facts of what has happened and what may have led to failure… It is important to accept failure, and to reflect on what went wrong. For example, did I study hard enough? What parts did I do well? Where did it go wrong? How can I do better next time?

2. Creativity

It took Thomas Edison 10,000 attempts to perfect the lightbulb. Making mistakes and having to reflect on what didn’t work means we have to reverse engineer a problem, which leads to greater understanding of the task, and results in more creative and innovative thinking in order to overcome obstacles.

3. Resilience

Whilst it doesn’t feel great to fail, if everything is always plain-sailing there is no opportunity to build resilience and strength. Resilience makes us determined to persevere and succeed.

4. Humility

Facing adversity such as failing helps us to stay humble, and remember that there is always more to learn. By putting our egos to the side, we remain open to new ideas which can help us to succeed.

5. Motivation

Failure is an important tool to motivate us to do better in the future. If someone tells you that you can’t do something, it drives your will to prove them wrong! By analysing our failures and learning how to do better next time, we can make progress. Seeing progress, even if only small, fuels our determination to succeed.

Failing at something doesn’t mean that you are a failure – it means you took a risk, invested your time and efforts and it didn’t work out. Reflecting on what went wrong allows us to turn something negative into a positive, and adopt a growth mind-set. So, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again!

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