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Shouldn’t Kids Learn to Fail?

What if kids were taught to actually fail? What if instead of getting everything perfect and always getting an "A", they were instead taught it was OK to fail forward?

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By definition, failure is a “lack of success.”

While we all might feel like a failure at times, the only true way to fail is to give up.

Instead of persevering, adopting a growth mindset, and figuring out how things work or how to adapt, giving up might be the worst habit someone can generate.

And unfortunately, it seems like giving up is becoming easier option for many kids these days. Instant gratification, social media, cell phones, distractions, inattention, and many others plaque the young minds of our children.

There is no doubt that in today’s world there is more to deal with at age 10, 15, and 18 than there was 20 years ago.

But maybe it is time for kids to get back to the days of skinning their knees, eating some dirt… and even failing sometimes, right?

What if he didn’t fail?

Gary Cohn is the President and Chief Operating Officer of the investment firm, Goldman Sachs.

Now you might be thinking, “I’ve heard it before, he tried and failed and was able to get to the top.”

Yes and No.

What you probably don’t know about Cohn is that he was diagnosed with dyslexia at an early age and at one point he overheard a teacher say he would lucky to be a truck driver.

By all odds, he was doomed for complete and utter failure on paper.

He was kicked out of school often, he performed poorly on assignments and he was deemed unintelligent.

But Cohn is the same individual who was able to become the CEO of Goldman Sachs… how in the world did he do it?

He got used to failing.

Cohn said it himself, he is grateful for his dyslexia.

The one trait in a lot of dyslexic people I know is that by the time we got out of college, our ability to deal with failure was very highly developed. And so we look at most situations and see much more of the upside than the downside.

With all the hardships and trouble Cohn endured at a young age, he got creative and learned how to make things happen, instead of letting them control him. Growing up he had two choices; get creative and thrive, accept his label, and remain broke most of life (in more ways than one).

His story of riding to the airport with an investment executive to land his first job in the investment world is just an example of his creativity and problem-solving abilities.

Something that public schools are scratching their heads when it comes to teaching kids, but they just can’t seem to figure it out.

But the answer might be simple, we learn to let kids fail again, so long as we encourage them along the way!

Grateful to fail.

I can tell you that what my wife and I have had to do over the last 4.5 years to get out of debt has been a bit crazy at times.

I can tell you that when my good friends started their businesses, a gutter company and the other started a power washing company, they were scared to death at times!

With $300,000 in student loan debt, not only did we stop eating out, we got really comfortable with “failing” according to society.

We became OK saying no to social events and while that might not seem like you’re failing to you, for many it is. Part of embracing failure starts with being OK with being different.

If kids are not OK with being a little different… than challenges arise when it comes to trying your best, failing, standing out, and not giving up – because those traits are now different in today’s world!

There were times when my friend TB struggled in school, yet now as a successful entrepreneur in his own right, those struggles ended up helping him.

“If I had gotten straight A’s in school, I don’t think I would own my own power washing company right now. I would probably be working at a desk, and for me, that wouldn’t feel right.” -TB

While not everyone is meant to own a company, but they should go to college, some aren’t meant to go to college, but should work for themselves. All this to say, schools should ALWAYS teach one thing:

Failure!

So maybe it’s time to get back to the basics and to embrace failure! We have gone to far in the wrong direction to prevent kids from ever failing to the point where they are afraid to take any academic risk! In life, this type of risk avoidance behavior serves well in some areas – but not for most!

Competing for a new job, standing up for yourself at work, speaking up when you see things occur – are all examples of where courage is needed. And courage comes from failing forward and developing a strong self-image. Some might think by protecting and nurturing all environments is going to help kids more, but this actually demolishes their self-worth over time… kids know when they didn’t earn a trophy.

That said, it isn’t easy, especially as a parent. Nobody wants to see their kids fail. Keeping that in mind, here are a few steps to help kids learn to fail (the right way):

  1. Teach your kids to adopt a growth mindset instead of a fixed result mindset
  2. Help kids recognize greatness comes from hard work
  3. A bad grade isn’t the end of the world
  4. Not everyone is an “A” student
  5. What we are not good at or the challenges we have just indicated we have to be solution seeking

This article was written by Josh Hastings, the founder of Money Life Wax which is a personal finance blog that offers life perspectives. As a full-time teacher and writer, Josh loves helping young adults and parents gain valuable skills to achieve their goals in life which includes teaching them how to save faster and make more so they can live life-based on their personal values!

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