“SCH Academy junior Molly Dugan, a captain of the school’s robotics team, has learned firsthand the value of failure. In the Robotics Lab, there’s a real spirit of trying big, bold ideas. But sometimes the big, bold ideas don’t work. When failures happen, ’we don’t let it stop us; we grow from it,’ explains Dugan. ‘Just because we failed doesn’t mean we didn’t succeed.’ The rule of thumb is to get the mistakes out of the way early so you can find what works and focus on that. The students call this process ‘failing forward’ and it’s a big creativity and confidence booster. ‘No one’s afraid to put their ideas out there because no one’s afraid of making mistakes. There’s always a huge flow of ideas around the lab,’ says Dugan. At times, she admits, it can be frustrating when things don’t go the way she wants, but it ‘just makes me more eager to get to a place where I can succeed.’
“The ability to overcome failure—what modern-day psychologists call resiliency and what Mattie Ross called ‘true grit’—is a quality embedded in every popular American success story, as Walt Disney (fired by a newspaper for lack of imagination), the Wright Brothers (experts in crash landings), and Bill Gates (humbled author of the operating system VISTA) will attest. We admire people who have suffered failure and gone on to succeed, yet most of us try to avoid it as much as possible in our own lives.
“‘Any creative endeavor entails some risk, and risk always carries the possibility of failure,’ says [former] SCH Academy president Dr. Priscilla Sands. ‘At SCH Academy, where we value creative problem solving and entrepreneurship, students are encouraged to try hard, think boldly, and find the lessons in their mistakes, for there are always lessons to be found.’ Paul Tough, author of How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, believes there is no more important lesson we can teach our children than how to cope with failure:
“‘[W]hat we’re finding out now is that in trying to protect our children, we may actually be harming them. By not giving them the chance to learn to manage adversity, to cope with failure, we produce kids who have real problems when they grow up. Overcoming adversity is what produces character. And character, even more than IQ, is what leads to real and lasting success.’
“Dr. Marisa LaDuca Crandall, director of educational and counseling services at SCH, even suggests, ‘The idea of acquiring resiliency might represent a paradigm shift for some people, who have assumed that these skills are innate and thus immutable.’
[...] With our nation’s increased focus on innovation and creativity as a way to stay globally competitive, we have had to get more comfortable with the notion of failure and resiliency and their role in the innovation process.’”