The Need to Fail

Note: This text is a revised version because I needed to fix little things like my word choice and paragraph format to make it grammatically and stylistically correct. I edited my word selection, as well as I better formed my paragraphs by blending some together. I also changed my title a bit to make it sound more appealing.


In order to succeed, what needs to occur? Success can often be defined by the grit and determination one displays. In school, students can show grit and determination through their daily activities and the effort they give. Although, without a fear or a motivator, does one still pursue success the same way? People need to be motivated and dedicated to achieve a goal. One huge motivator can be failure, and without it, success wouldn’t be as meaningful to students.


Is it possible for failure to actually help students? As a student-athlete, I believe that failure makes me a better player. Without it, I would not have much to learn from, much to fear, and much to drive me. After all, there’s a humiliation associated with losing that makes victory so luxurious. But there would be no glory in winning if there was no shame in losing.


If I was given the gift of making every shot I took in basketball, would I work hard to become a better player? Victory would become expected rather than earned because hard work wouldn’t be needed anymore to succeed. Improvement wouldn’t be necessary, and, instead, success would be given. As a player, I would have no motivation.


This can relate to school because students need the threat of failure to improve. They need the threat of a bad grade to make them strive to earn a good grade. In author and educator Mary Sherry’s article, “In Praise of the F Word”, Sherry states “…most kids don’t put school first on their list unless they perceive something is at stake.” This quote explains that without something important at stake, some kids feel no urge to work hard. They feel that it’s for no purpose, a pure waste. However, if failure was a real possibility, succeeding may be more meaningful and more of a priority to students. Because flunking a class is a big deal to most students, the idea that there’s a possibility of them failing may steer them back in the right direction to succeed.


What is the importance of failure? Well, the truth is, there’s no one answer to that question. It’s different for everybody. Though, typically the most successful people even run into a few bumps along the way. Take it from one of the greatest basketball players of all time, and six-time NBA champion, Michael Jordan. He claims here, “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”


Jordan’s quote explains how failure, more often than not, is a key component in success. Jordan, an experienced winner, describes how success is made meaningful by the lessons learned from failure. This quote shows how failure didn’t bring him down, but, instead, it brought him up and raised his level of play, helping him become the great basketball player we recognize him as today.


Students in school can take failure the same way as Michael Jordan did. In school, they must realize that the bruises they endure on their journey to success will only make the victory that much sweeter. With a mindset that recognizes what comes with failing and, in the students’ cases, flunking, earning good grades will come with a sense of pride that only makes you want to get back to that place of glory because you truly realize how horrible failure can be. It motivates you.


Although failure can act as a motivator to many, some may say that it can become an extreme and unhealthy fear, actually interfering with the drive for success. The article “How Champions React to Failure” describes how failure can be seen through the other lens, stating “…the ordinary person who takes a loss is prone to become discouraged, panicky, less determined and do something foolish. This is because most people are, to begin with, fearful that they will fail.” The passage continues, also claiming that “They subconsciously want to escape so they numb themselves to the pain of failure by damping their desire to win.”


This can be a valid response to failure, but if students understand what can be achieved with success, the importance to succeed will be greatly recognized and will drive them to reach their goals. With a mindset to succeed, they will respond to failure differently.


According to the same article, author Dr. Allen Fox also states that “The successful achiever reacts differently to failure than most people.” It continues, adding, “Losses challenge champions and actually increase their motivation. They become more determined and intense, and silently vow to work harder and increase their preparations so that they can win next time. They keep their heads, make necessary adjustments, and become more dogged than ever in their quest for success.”


The failure that the article is suggesting is losing in a competition. This doesn’t quite relate to students in school, but it shares the same concept. No matter the situation, failure can be perceived two different ways, and it is a matter of how one takes failure that determines their level of success. Some let it destroy their spirits, but champions use it as fuel to help them succeed.


Failure is needed for success to have its full meaning with students. Students must attack the idea of failure or flunking as, not only motivation, but as an obstacle that only the students that demonstrate the most passion and determination can surpass. This mindset will prove to students that failure is one of the keys for them to succeed, and without the experience or threat of losing, they would not have the same pride and joy that comes with success.

So, instead of this post being titled “The Need to Succeed,” as this may be what you are thinking it should be, it is actually more accurate for it to be titled “The Need to Fail” because failure is needed for success to be the most meaningful to students.


By: Michael A.