What Does Failing Teach?


I heard an interview on CBC radio recently with Perdita Felicien.  She was a Canadian hurdler who competed at the 2000 Olympics, won a world title in 2003, and was a favorite to win in the 2004 Olympics.  But what many remember about her is that at those Olympic Games, she tripped on a hurdle and fell.  This would be her last appearance at an Olympics.

It’s hard to imagine what the life of an Olympian must be like: all the hard work it must take, and all the sacrifices that would be required.  How incredibly sad that her dreams ended the way that they did.

Is she a broken person because of this experience?

On the contrary, she said in the interview that “My legacy will be to show people that you can fall flat on your ass and get up again.”

What do you teach the children in your life about failure?  When you don’t succeed at something, do you put yourself down?  Or do you recognize that no one is perfect, and that instead of looking back at your mistakes, you need to look forward to what you are going to do next.

When your kids make mistakes, do you lay on a guilt trip about how they should know better?  Do you punish them for not achieving what you feel they are capable of?

Many people believe that the problem with kids today is that we don’t let them fail enough.  For many kids, though, experiencing a failure teaches them that they are a failure.  Instead of getting up again, they give up.  I see kids every day who would rather not even try to achieve something simply to avoid the possibility of failure.

Rick Wormeli, education consultant, says that it’s not failure that teaches, it’s the recovery from failure that truly teaches.

Do you focus on the failure, or the recovery?


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