Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Never get Shy of your Failure, never!

Most of the people I know, friends or students, are too scared to fail that they prefer to not even try. They spend their lives trying to avoid failure and thinking that this is “success”. They can go on forever and not know what they are capable of or how unique they are just because of this unfriendly ghost called failure.
We are all familiar with the common sayings:
“The only real failure in life is the failure to try.”
“We seem to gain wisdom more readily through our failures than through our successes ..”
I actually found loads of related quotes that have the same meaning. People are familiar of these quotes and their meanings but it doesn’t help them overcome their fear of failure. Still the ghost wins.
I feel societies empower this ghost with their pressure and stereotypes of some unexpected outcomes or behaviour that are commonly referred to as failure. That is why sometimes you find people afraid to say I don’t know and afraid to seek knowledge from younger people. I know people who consider being the second on the class a failure ???
We must not confuse not reaching an expected result or not achieving a certain goal with the tendency to be lazy or to not do one’s best. The difference is very clear. I have never been harsh with a student for not giving an unexpected outcome. I am the villain only if they chose to ignore their responsibilities and ignore the many opportunities they are given to do their work.
Anyway, why am I bringing this up now? Simply because I have been preaching about the role of failure in learning but I have never had an effective way to help students deal with it. Recently while working on a totally irrelevant subject, I stumbled upon the failure faire. In my opinion, it is a brilliant idea to showcase failures because:

The lessons you can learn from your mistakes will increase through such showcases and discussions.
It is also a strong step towards changing the social attitude towards the word failure. We simply need a different definition, and I feel failure faire is a good practical start.
Another great thing about such events is the possibility of finding a way out to take whatever was thought to be “not working” to “working”. In research communities, we are supposed to have informal talks when we get stuck in our research; this is simply to brain storm together for a solution. So, if we look at the researcher who got stuck as a failure, I seriously doubt that they will seek advice.
So, let us program our brains to perceive the word failed differently…. when you hear it…think this person is stuck, blocked, misunderstood, facing difficulties, learning, etc
Finally, I think FailureFaire should be a common and widely used behaviour especially among educators. That is what I am seriously thinking about, which reminds me why I started writing this post in the first place I would like to start such event with my class and I had several questions on my mind. I would love to get feedback on what could be the answer:

If something is incomplete, can it be listed as a failed attempt or project? If not, can we list it as successful? if not, should we have three categories: success, fail, incomplete??
Also, when to give up on a certain approach and declare it as failed? May be I didn’t do enough attempts to make it work and maybe there is one simple thing that can take it to success but I am still not there yet???
Any suggestions on how to best involve failure showcases in an academic course, should it have different planning than other showcases? Remember we don’t want to shy away from the term, we want to perceive it differently?
All your thoughts are highly appreciated

My CSEN lecturer wrote this, all credit to her, I loved to share it as it's very inspirational :)