Writing this post takes courage for me because I don’t like to admit my failures.
The irony is that time and again I’ll say in conversations and Twitter chats that teachers need to be accepting of student mistakes and failures. Why, then, am I not more accepting of my own failures? More importantly, why do I dwell on those failures SO MUCH that I hesitate to take a future risk, fearing that I’ll just fail again?
I need to change my mindset about failure and lose the negative connotation it has.
While I was listening to The Power of Moments on Audible today, authors Chip and Dan Heath shared a story about a father who asked his children, “What did you fail at this week?”
Right away I had one. I’d been turned down for a book project.
But what about the failure before that? I began to struggle because I couldn’t think of a recent failure before that one. That’s when I started wondering: Was I putting myself out there and taking new risks? Was I trying to be innovative or just trying to survive?
The book includes the story of the inventor of Spanx, who was rejected by male clothing manufacturers again and again, but she’d experienced so many doors slammed in her face during her sales career that the word “no” didn’t faze her anymore.
Deanna Singh, entrepreneur and change maker, keynoted the Summer Spark conference in Milwaukee this year, and her final message was similar. In the Q and A, she was asked about her failures–as it turned out, she was creating a “failure” resume. She wanted to outline all her failures that she experienced, so others could understand that failure is commonplace and even an integral part of success.
Failure is scary. As Chip and Dan Heath explain in their book, it’s almost cliche to hear “Take Risks,” but when we hear this phrase, there’s an unspoken promise that all will work out, that we’ll enjoy rainbow-filled results.
Unfortunately, that’s not true, and that’s tough for me to accept. I don’t like putting myself out there if I’m not sure I can succeed. Part of me wants to stop thinking about book submissions, stop reading other great teachers’ books (because I’ll compare my failures to their successes), and stop tweeting my posts–surely, someone will recognize that I’m an impostor.
If I’m going to ask my students and my own children to take risks and expect failures, I need to as well. I need to eat my own dogfood. I need to take a risk every week and be grateful, even excited, about my failures.