The Misunderstood Key to Success

Under the social pressure to be perfect, we often overlook the need for failure.

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digital art by Julia Poppa

Though often shunned in our culture, failure is a necessary precursor to meaningful success.

Anna Parsons, Staff Writer

Henry Ford once said, “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”

Every individual is guilty of failing. Every individual is also guilty of punishing themselves for failing. But why? 

In a society where it is preached that success is the answer to a great life, we get stuck in the notion that if we fail, then we are not worthy of that great life. Instead, failure is the first step in creating it.

Without failure, we would never improve. We would be stuck in a cycle of always winning, which makes the win that much less valuable. So, why do we look at failure with so much disgust and resentment?

Ever since we were young, we’ve been told in all aspects of life that failure is unacceptable. That failure means we didn’t try hard enough or we didn’t care enough. However, it’s often the case that we did study enough or practice enough. It just didn’t click when we took that test or played that game.

Here’s where failure serves its ultimate purpose. Now, we should use that failure to learn from what occurred before in order to change our habits so that, the next time around, we simply do better. Without failure, we would have nothing to build on, nothing to improve.

This blaring voice preaching an impractical ideal drowns out what students should be hearing, the lesson that should be taught.”

Yet failure continues to be frowned upon heavily despite the fact that it helps us become better as individuals. We are expected to be perfect from the start, no room for error, and no place is more susceptible to this pressure than  school.

Some might argue that failure in school is acceptable, as teachers still, for example, mark failed tests in the grade book.  In most cases, we do, after all, get at least some points when we fail.  But very few teachers specifically tell their students that their failure is acceptable. Most students receive lectures instead on why their performance was horrific. 

This blaring voice preaching an impractical ideal drowns out what students should be hearing, the lesson that should be taught. The stress actually damages their performance in school because they let it torment their brains. 

If teachers and administrators focused on proclaiming that failing is a part of life and is the only way to truly improve, then the ridiculous idea of utter perfection would diminish to a more realistic standard. Students would feel embraced and understood instead of ashamed when they fail. 

Of course, there’s a difference between promoting failure and promoting the act of no effort. When we fail due to a lack of effort, we were never trying to be the best possible version of ourselves and were likely never planning on changing that habit. In such case, we find ourselves stuck in a dangerous cycle.

Constructive failure is the opposite. It occurs when an individual tries to create an improved version of themselves but falls short for a reason only they can find. In such instances, the only way forward is to try again, which is why failure should be more widely accepted. It reveals room to grow.

Failure equals experience. Experience equals growth. And growth equals success. Only when we can learn how to accept our own failures, as well as those of others, can we surpass the expectations that often appear to limit us.