Friday, October 27, 2006

The Art of Failure

Failure is one of the most important yet underrated and misunderstood happenings in our life. Throughout life, we are told that success is important and passing the exams is more important than anything else. Yet, schools and teachers pass students to next classes, since they are unable to take the pressure of competing and studying in an environment that pushes them to the limits. Winning and losing is important, but we are told "it is the participation that matters" - sure it matters, but does it mean that winning does not matter? Or for that matter failure does not matter? The fact of the matter is that they do.

There is a new and disturbing trend of trying to protect the young ones from competition. The thinking is that they are too young to understand winning and losing. Far from true! Children, not only understand win and loss, but also appreciate the difference; because that shows a strong causal relationship between effort and reward.

In the long run, all this culminates into a strong fear of failure. Academically, how many children pass, when they should be failing. Grace marks, compulsory passing, no-exams policies all induce various pushes in the system, which ensure that even the most incompetent students are able to beat the system. That also leads to decline in the standards of of higher education.

We should realise that life is full of failures. For every 5 efforts made in real life, only 1 succeeds. However, in our cocooned lives, we pass almost 100% of the times. And thus, when one enters the workforce, after 15 odd years of schooling and college education, we are strongly ingrained with this no-failure system; the 80% failure rate comes as a big shock to people!

Instead, we should encourage more sports or other such activities at school level, where people win and lose, so that they understand what is losing. That is when they get the life skills of coping up with failure.

Michael Jordan puts it aptly in this lovely poster!

Be thankful for your failures. They teach you 100 times more than successes!

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