Failure: One of the best teachers and motivators

One of the best ways one can learn and motivate oneself is from failure.
When asked for a quote for the yearbook my second year of teaching, I came up with the above quote on the fly. It’s message is simple – don’t let failure get you down.

Over and over again, I have learned that failure is one of the best teachers. It is also one of the best motivators.

For instance, failing and coming home early from what I thought would be a dream internship taught me that the career path I was on was not the best for me and motivated me to find a new path. That happened again eight years later when I lost two jobs in quick succession. That set me on the trajectory to become a teacher, the career path I’m on now which I enjoy more than any other career I’ve ever pursued.

As a teacher, I’ve failed many times by giving lessons or assignments that fell completely flat. But from those fails, I’ve built lessons and assignments that have been roaring successes.

With a positive attitude, we can learn from failures and climb to a higher plane
This quote appeared in the yearbook the first year I taught. It encapsulates my philosophy on life. Too bad the yearbook editors failed to get the right quote and spell my name correctly. I hope they learned from their failure!

Nearly every year my classroom motto is “Attitude determines altitude.” I try to instill in my students what I believe is an indisputable truth –  regardless of past performance, if one has a positive attitude, one can overcome any challenge and learn from past failures. A negative attitude, on the other hand, is toxic. Instead of rising above when failure happens, bitterness can ensue. Instead of a can-do attitude, a who-cares, I-give-up attitude forms.

My message today is to think to yourself that whatever has happened in the past, no matter how horrendous it seems, with the right attitude, you can put yourself on a higher plane and rise above it.

Let us take the higher ground. Instead of descending to lower depths, let’s keep on climbing to new heights!


4 thoughts on “Failure: One of the best teachers and motivators

  1. Hi Reuben,

    This is really great post! Failure should not be feared but embraced. When we make a mistake, we can learn from it instead of seeing as a disadvantage in our lives. In the past, I used to be afraid of making mistakes because I saw failure as a disaster. Growing up, I realized that if I don’t understand why I failed, then I will most probably repeat the situation. Therefore I will never learn a thing!


  2. There is no question that this is true. It dovetails well with my parenting philosophy that I want my kids to fail early and often. When they are little they pick themselves up and keep on going. It is only later that we introduce judgement and shame. That said if they learn problem solving early everyone wins.

    1. I agree. I’m a firm believer in letting my kids fail because that’s how they learn the best. In fact, I’m writing a blog post on that as a follow up to this one. Thanks for commenting!

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