Here is a great (and brief) article on the importance of failure in developing character, growing businesses, and helping people have a good life. It turns out that trying to spare people (ourselves, our children, our employees, etc) from experiencing the pain of failure is bad in the long run. Why? We can’t gain deep wisdom without the process of learning from our failures. This is a list from the article at Forbes.com of ways to help people fail in a way that is positive for them and the organization.
“Here are some ways to increase employees’ comfort with the risk of failure, and to be resilient when it happens:
- Share past stories of struggle. Everyone’s been there.
- Practice recovery so people aren’t paralyzed by failure. When I was coaching sports, we didn’t just diagram plays. We always developed a Plan B. That’s why great organizations scenario-plan. It helps people think of struggle as part of the process.
- Help people around you think like long-term investors in their own ideas and their own careers. The aim shouldn’t be to try to have one uninterrupted string of successes, but rather to have a portfolio of some winners and, yes, some losers.
- If someone is struggling, your job is to figure out how to get them on the right path. The real job of a manager is to help people learn from failure and move forward.
- Champion failure that turns to innovation. Find examples where ordinary failure has led to extraordinary opportunity.
- Encourage failing fast. Sometimes we recognize that something is failing, and our instinct tells us to push harder to make it succeed. Knowing when to pull the plug is always difficult but is necessary.”
Source: Helping People Learn By Letting Them Fail Is Essential – Forbes
A moment of clarity for me: Teaching is often the slow investment of truth over time to allow for moments of understanding and transformation.
Someone I know recently “saw the light” on an issue, but only after hearing good advice for a couple of years. I was tempted to feel a little hurt. When they told me about their new perspective, my absurd pride was a little wounded, as if this person wasn’t giving the proper credit to me. I felt like saying, “yes of course, I have been telling you that for 2 years.” But I realized that this is the nature of teaching and learning. It is the way we experience deep learning.
Time, circumstances, and truth are used by the Holy Spirit to help us grow.
As a parent or teacher, don’t get discouraged at the slow process of stocking the shelves. Sometimes we “inform” for the first time. But more commonly we remind, revisit, and explain what is already in the mind so that people can make new connections (2 Peter 1:12-15). Many of the most important realizations we experience are only possible because years of learning.
In teaching, many of the things we impart are like seeds that may lay dormant for years or decades only to sprout later.
Life-changing realizations rarely happen the first time we encounter a concept. It can take weeks, or more commonly years, for us to experience a sudden moment of understanding.
This has major implications.
This passage is from Ravi Zacharias Book, “Jesus among Other Gods:”
“He who comes to Me will never go hungry, and he who believes in Me will never be thirsty.” Notice the power implicit in the claim.
“At the heart of every major religion is a leading exponent. As the exposition is studied, something very significant emerges. There comes a bifurcation, or a distinction, between the person and the teaching. Mohammed, to the Koran. Buddha, to the Noble Path. Krishna, to his philosophizing. Zoroaster, to his ethics.
“Whatever we may make of their claims, one reality is inescapable. They are teachers who point to their teaching or show some particular way. In all of these, there emerges an instruction, a way of living. It is not Zoroaster to whom you turn. It is Zoroaster to whom you listen. It is not Buddha who delivers you; it is his Noble Truths that instruct you. It is not Mohammed who transforms you; it is the beauty of the Koran that woos you.
“By contrast, Jesus did not only teach or expound His message. He was identical with His message. “In Him,” say the Scriptures, “dwelt the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” He did not just proclaim the truth. He said, “I am the truth.” He did not just show a way. He said, “I am the Way.” He did not just open up vistas. He said, “I am the door.” “I am the Good Shepherd.” “I am the resurrection and the life.” “I am the I AM.”
“In Him is not just an offer of life’s bread. He is the bread. That is why being a Christian is not just a way of feeding and living. Following Christ begins with a way of relating and being.”
Zacharias, Ravi K. Jesus among Other Gods: The Absolute Claims of the Christian Message. Nashville, TN: Word Pub., 2000. Print. (p. 89)