Failure Isn’t Even An Option – It’s Part of the Equation

Apparently it’s time for me to go back to movie quote land. First stop is straight back to Meet the Robinsons.

Watch the whole scene. It’s totally worth it. There’s a million and a half reasons why this is one of my favorite movies of all time, and this is one of them. Lewis’ expression nails it when he fails. It expresses so much grief and frustration and embarrassment, which are emotional states largely imposed on us by society. You see, it is bad to fail. Failing is bad. It means you weren’t good enough to get it right the first time. This is such a bad line of thinking that it is debilitating some of our best learners (of any age). People don’t want to be perceived badly. They want to excel. But it is critical to place “failing” into a better context. It’s an integral part of process, not an obstacle or limitation or anything negative. If anything it is natural and should be celebrated.


There are so many quotes that touch on the subject. Another favorite:

You only fail when you give up.

and a Japanese proverb

Fall down seven times, stand up eight.


And then we can ask Batman for our next movie quote.

Now, I believe this “failure culture” needs to be within the bounds of a structured enough environment (with instruction and help—as the learner needs. Needs. Key here. Not wants) so that they do not fall endlessly down a bottomless hole of despair and frustration. But a scraped knee never hurt anyone in the pursuit of personal discovery. And often, I believe, they will learn something deeper and better than through instruction alone, and learn something about themselves in the process.


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