Success and Failure
Let’s look at success holistically, rather than the ultimate and exclusive goal for our kids. What does it mean to be successful? At Maharishi School, we would argue that success is often measured in the moments surrounding failure. When failure occurs, what happened right before and right after that event? Moments before we failed, did we do everything we possibly could have to have the best likelihood of reaching our goals? In the moments after failure, could we tell what went wrong, did we learn anything, does this event spur us on to a bigger goal? The answers to these questions decide whether failure is something that squashes us, our passion, and our drive -or- leads us to a deeper, more thorough, and longer lasting understanding of ourselves, our goals, and our passions.
Read below to see how Maharishi School’s Robotics stood in the face of failure…and found success.
Small Failures – by Carol Chesnutt, Director of Enrollment Management
Perhaps I was standing too close when I overhead the phone calls in Maharishi School’s Central Office.
“Fei Hung is missing from school today.”
“Is Steve at home sick today?”
“Tom didn’t show up for school today. (pause) Is Tom on the same robotics team with Fei and Steve?”
I’ll admit I was a bit giddy when I heard that Fei and her 2 robotics teammates were “home sick” 2 days before the state robotics competition. Software updates had created havoc with their robot. The students weren’t home with a fever: they were scrambling to fix the problem.
Why did their tense situation give me a thrill? My first 20+ year career was in management consulting helping large corporations either fix complex problems or innovate their business. Clients paid high fees and expected results in a compressed timeline. The most successful consultants never grimaced at a tight timeline and didn’t shrink when the project came up against obstacles – which happened regularly. They dug in and worked the problem. When I see students digging in, I know they’re learning and developing ‘grit’ in a relatively low-risk environment.
“Small failures, when the stakes are relatively low and the potential for emotional and cognitive growth is high, are what psychologists Elizabeth and Robert Bjork call ‘desirable difficulties.’ Learning that comes with challenge is stored more effectively and more durably in the brain than learning that comes easily.” Jessica Lahey
Teachers at Maharishi School embrace difficulties and small failures. Learning from failures not only ‘sticks’ better, it creates resiliency and humility – desirable traits for students and management consultants alike.
By the way, the state robotics competition didn’t go well for Fei, Steve, and Tom. The software issues never got resolved. But without question, I’d hire any of those 3 kids for a consulting team.
The Future of Failure
We have complete faith these kids will go far in whatever education or career path they choose. No one doubts that. When failure came their way, their end goals suddenly were even closer to their grasps. Did they win a robotics competition? No, but they did learn a real-world lesson: stuff goes wrong, sometimes that is out of your control regardless of how hard you work or how well prepared you are, you’re just going to have to deal with that. Inevitably, these students learned that lesson better through their failure than if anyone had tried to explain that to them. The future of their failure is success.
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