As we enter a new school year, let’s think about ways in which we learn. One of the ways we learn is through failure. Failing is a big part of learning. It is something we should embrace rather than fear. Without failures we cannot grow. Think about a little baby creeping on the floor beginning to take his first steps. He will most likely fall a few dozen times, yet he continues to get back up and try again. Yes, he may even get hurt and cry when he falls and bangs something. But that doesn’t stop him from trying again. Each time he falls he learns a little bit more about how to walk. His brain is learning what works and what doesn’t work. In time he will have succeeded to walk through all those failed attempts.
Often we are afraid to try because we are afraid we will fail. We receive an F on a paper and think, “That’s it! I’m no good at this!” And this stops us from wanting to try again. However, its moments like this when we need to think of that little baby trying to walk, dust our proverbial pants off, and try again. We should ask ourselves, or our teacher, why we received the F. What did we do wrong, and how can we get better? This is not to say that you may not get an F again. If you did, then try to see if there was an improvement, any improvement. Focus on what was right, and go from there.
Albert Einstein, one of my heroes, failed at least 7 times when he was developing his E=mc2 equation. He also failed many times while coming up with his Theory of Relativity and many other failures in his work as a mathematician and scientist. In fact, 1905 was said to be Einstein’s annus mirabilis, his year of miracles. He wrote a series of papers that year including his particle theory on light. However, that year also contained at least 6 major failures for him, including his first proof of his famous equation. Are you surprised? I’m not. Failure is practically built in to the scientific method, and the engineering design process. Without failures, there would not be any improvements.
Einstein was not the only scientist who experienced failure. Marie Curie, Nikola Tesla, Sir Isaac Newton, and Galileo all experienced failure. However they did not let that stop them. They continued on to do the great things we know them for today. In fact, if we really were to examine any great from history, we would be able to find their failures, along with their successes. Failure is a part of life, a part of growing. We should not let it stop us from learning.
There’s a motivational baseball quote that I love, “Never give up. The last swing could win the game.” So true.