Hard Work and the Value of Failure

Have you ever tried something that didn’t work out? Depending on how big the stakes were, or the nature of what you tried and failed at, you might have:  

1) Determined that you were wrong to take that chance and you’ll never do it again; 

2) Decided that you needed to adjust your approach or modify your goal and try again; or 

3) Realized that you needed to work harder or get help to achieve your dream.

We can probably all cite examples of times in our lives where we respond using one of these three ways.  And many of us likely attach a negative connotation to the word, “failure.” When we adopt approach #2 or #3, however, we build greater competency in whatever we were attempting and also greater confidence along the way.  We build muscle and strengthen our own capacity to accept failure as an important step along the way to mastery.  

In the Roycemore Middle School, we have been utilizing our time each morning in Homeroom and Thursdays during Advisory to talk about setting goals, developing grit, resilience, and bouncing back from setbacks.  A recent activity engaged students in thinking about what they’re least inspired by, what they’re most inspired by and how they stay motivated. This is an activity that many of us adults could benefit from. For when we truly understand what inspires us, what sucks the life out of us, and how we stay motivated, we are in a position to successfully set ourselves up to work hard, learn from failure, and ultimately reach our goals.

In Advisory, Middle School students also watched part of a graduation speech by Denzel Washington to students at Dillard University.  He shared his personal reflections about working hard to achieve his goals.  “Don’t be afraid to fail big, to dream big. You only live once, so do what you feel passionate about,” says Washington.  But he goes on to say, “Dreams without goals are just dreams and they ultimately fuel disappointment. To achieve these goals you must apply discipline and consistency.  Working really hard is what successful people do.”  

Our students move from developing leadership skills in our lower school, learn to try and try again in our middle school, then lead the charge of their own education in Upper School. Through it all, they are better prepared for the successes and failures that await them in adulthood.