As parents, you watched firsthand as your child took their wobbly first steps, bouncing back stronger than before after every trip or tumble. As humans, we learn from failure. We come back stronger after realizing what doesn’t work. So, when did our American society decide that failure was a bad thing?
In Eric Weiner’s book The Geography of Bliss, he examines what makes the happiest countries in the world so happy. What he reports on Iceland, the 4th happiest country in the world, is something America, and parents across the globe, should aspire to embrace.
You see, in Iceland they praise failure. They praise people for trying, they measure what they learned rather than how they failed. And you know what? There is something to be said for that. They have more artists per capita than any other country in the world because they’re not afraid to be creative, they’re not playing a constant game of comparison, or avoiding the grim disappointment of failing. And they’re some of the happiest people on earth because they measure success differently. They try new things—and fail at new things—until they find what truly fuels their soul.
According to Weiner, in America, we only seem to celebrate failure when someone is ultimately successful. But when you abandon that fear of failure, you won’t be afraid of trying new things. The two go hand-in-hand. So, as a parent, we challenge you—no matter what age your child is—to teach them that failure is not the enemy. The enemy is fear and losing that intuitive love of learning and curiosity that we embody as children. Celebrate failure as a learning experience and inspire them to be curious and try new things—even if the outcome could be failure.
The Success Trifecta: Experimentation, Risk-Taking, and Intentional LearningNow, when your child starts that journey from high school to college or college to career they may need a little guidance, but don’t do the work for them! Those who are both successful and fulfilled in their careers have often experimented and taken risks, learning along the way what they enjoy, dislike, and what they are passionate about. It’s that intentional learning and growth mindset—the idea that every experience has something to teach us—that will help them thrive in the world of work. McKinsey & Company has coined the phrase intentional learning and designated it as one of the single most important skills any individual can have as they enter the world of work. Young professionals who embrace intentional learning are unafraid to try, fail, and take the risk to experiment with different outcomes. They are often the ones who succeed.
Here are a few things you as a parent can do to inspire the “success trifecta” in your child—experimentation, risk-taking, and intentional learning:
- Allow them to be independent—don’t make their decisions for them. Prompt them to utilize their own critical thinking skills to work through scenarios and problems to understand all the outcomes.
- Encourage them to ask questions—of themselves and others—to foster better understanding and uncover learning experiences.
- Embrace the mindset that failure is a learning opportunity and teach that to them. Don’t scold them for a bad grade, ask them what they learned and how they’ll do better next time.