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Teen Summer Camp Explains How Failure Leads To Success
Teens at our academic summer camp, SuperCamp, find out an important life lesson when we talk to them about how failure leads to success. Our failures provide us with valuable gifts—they give us the information we need to learn so that we can succeed next time.
The only path to success is stepping out of your comfort zone and being willing to risk. What keeps us from taking risks? The view that failure is a negative and the fear that failing will cause us shame and guilt. How would you act if you knew that failure is virtually your only path to success? We know this because nearly all successful people failed a lot. But they learned, tried a new way, and went on to succeed.
If you hear the word “failure,” what emotion does it evoke in you? Guilt? Shame? Inadequacy? Not a pretty picture. Failure is the label we stick on unsuccessful ventures. It’s practically synonymous with incompetence. The word alone brings up feelings of shame and humiliation.
When we fail, we automatically send ourselves bad messages. We discourage ourselves from trying again, because if we try we risk another failure. It’s true that when you give up trying, you don’t have to face failure anymore. But you’ll have close to zero chance of achieving success. In order to really succeed, you’ve got to be willing to fall on your face a few times.
You didn’t start out being afraid of failing or hating to fail. When you were tiny, failure didn’t weigh you down with emotional sludge. When you failed as a toddler learning to walk, you had a good cry then you stood up, dusted yourself off, and kept on going. But somewhere along the way you learned that trying and not succeeding was bad. That it meant trying was bad. That it meant you were bad.
Your failures by themselves aren’t so terrible, for the most part. It’s how you think about them that gives them the power to shut you down.
When you fail, you experience two types of consequences: internal and external. The external consequences are what happen in the world as a result of your failure. The internal consequences are what happen inside you: the emotional impact of your failure. That math exam you botched your sophomore year? The external consequences were a bad grade and maybe a stern lecture from your parents. The internal consequences were those persistent little demons that whispered, “You’re no good at math. You’re too stupid to do this.” The bad grade came and went—the little voices stayed.
Because our society views failure in a negative way, we learn to avoid trying new things. Instead of risking failure, we fall back into the comfort zone of the familiar, the tried and true. In order to avoid humiliation, we let fabulous opportunities pass us by. But if you’re going to harness the power that lies within your failures, you’ll have to change the way you think about them. Learn to see them for the gifts they are.
Failure is not just one possible path; it’s practically the only path to success. It’s necessary. It’s required. You can’t succeed without learning. And in order to learn, you have to risk failure. Learning doesn’t happen in an atmosphere of fear. Why not? Because fear shuts down the experimentation process. People don’t take risks when they’re afraid. They won’t try something new. And what is learning if not trying new things? You can’t succeed if you can’t grow. You can’t grow if you can’t learn. You can’t learn if you can’t fail.
Of course, there’s a huge difference between appropriate and inappropriate risk. Not all risks are of equal value; not all risks are worth taking. Deciding the value of a risk is a skill like any other. Weigh the rewards of each risk against its potential outcomes, and look at the circumstances in terms of its impact on your inner vision.
You have to risk failure in order to learn anything. Whether you fail or not, risk-taking alone is a powerful learning tool. But the actual experience of failing is the fastest way to learn. Failure vastly improves your odds of success, particularly in the long run, because it tells you what to do—and what not to do—next. When you diagnose your failures and figure out where you went wrong, you’re teaching yourself, literally by trial and error, how to go right. Failing is a great way to learn and grow.
Treat your failures as gifts. Whenever you fail, the universe has just handed you a piece of wisdom. Don’t let it go to waste. Mine it for all it’s worth. Ask yourself:
• What happened?
• What did I learn?
• What will I do differently next time?
“Life is a series of outcomes,” says Simone Carruthers, psychologist and business consultant. “Sometimes the outcome is what you want. Great. Figure out what you did right. Sometimes the outcome is what you don’t want. Great. Figure out what you did so you don’t do it again.”
The only time you’ve really failed is when you fail to learn from your mistakes.
Affirmations for FAILURE LEADS TO SUCCESS:
• I’m not afraid to make mistakes.
• When I make them, I take the time to learn from them.
• I believe failures are opportunities for growth.
“Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.” —Henry Ford
SuperCamp summer programs fill up fast. Parents, go to http://www.SuperCamp.com now to learn about enrolling your son or daughter while space remains. Age-specific programs are available for students in grades 4-12 and incoming college freshmen. At the website, you also can get a free eBook that gives you an inside look at what works with teens from a world leader in youth achievement, SuperCamp co-founder Bobbi DePorter.
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