How to “Fail”


If you’re like me, you want your kids to do well. You hate when they fail or are even upset. The problem with this is that everybody faces challenges and everybody fails, and kids need practice to be able to learn how to handle that. What I’ve learned is that “failure” isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it’s actually a very good thing. So much can come out of failure.

When you take a close look at some of our country’s greatest success stories, you see that they failed a lot. For example, Abraham Lincoln filed for bankruptcyhad a nervous breakdown, and was defeated in 7 elections before he became President of the United States. I think it is safe to say that everyone admires Abraham Lincoln. But be honest, now that you know about his failures, don’t you admire him a little bit more? It is nice to know that successful people fail too.

It’s tempting to focus on our successes, but new research from Harvard Business School supports the idea that sharing our failures as well as successes is beneficial.

Researchers asked people to listen to audios of other people’s pitches. Some versions included only successes while others included both successes and failures. The researchers found that people who listened to the successes-and-failures version felt more positively toward the person and had less envy.

At a recent ASCD conference, I went to a presentation where a middle school assistant principal talked about how he shares his failures with his students and with his own kids. He has learned that it builds trust. His students and children feel better about opening up to him because they know he isn’t perfect.

At The Center For Resilient Leadership, we talk a lot about the brain science of resilience, and how important challenge is in building resilient brain pathways.  I would love to tell you that I now handle every conflict and challenge beautifully. I don’t.  Just ask my husband and kids. But I can say that as I learn more about the brain, I am better about learning from my mistakes and that I’m not as afraid to fail.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Winston Churchill. “Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.”  I am now more than ever an enthusiastic failure.

By Debby Spitzer


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