When my World of Warcraft (WoW) raiding team decides to take on a new (for us) fight, we’re aware that failure is all but inevitable the first time – perhaps many times thereafter. The boss (biggest baddie) in any specific raid is by design hard to kill. Yet we believe that we’ll eventually get it down – and perhaps celebrate our victory with a screenshot :-). A few nights ago, for instance, we tried a new fight and wiped (failed) repeatedly. We’ll be back, of course, and try again and again until we succeed.
For much in life, from learning to walk to acquiring the right strategy for killing a WoW boss, the precursors to success typically include taking risks, failing, reflecting, changing strategy, and trying again. As Aristotle said, “For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them” (Nicomachean Ethics 2.ii). As educator Bob Lenz said much more recently, “When reframed as a good, constructive, and essential part of learning, failure is a master teacher” (Edutopia). In short, Lenz’s article is about the importance of making friends with failure.
I’m an avid golfer, mediocre at best but in love with the game – walking, talking, and playing with friends in the peaceful park-like spaces of northwoods golf courses. But sometimes (okay, often) I get discouraged. This summer I’ve been working on my swing, changing it up a bit. When my strikes work well, the ball is a beautiful sight to behold – rocketing down the fairway in between the oh-so-green grass and summer-blue sky.
Then, just when I think I’ve grooved in the swing, WHAM! the golf gods slam me. (Golf is a humbling game.) If I have a series of bad strikes, the golf imps attack, swarming in my head, muttering stuff like “You’re rotten at this. Give it up! Go home and do something useful.” The good news is that I’ve learned how to quickly banish the imps, or at least hold them at bay. I learned it from a wise little boy named CrumpleVaporBolt.
Crumple, in this cute little video, shows other kids how to make a digital pet skunk. When he makes a mistake that he’d just warned us against, his progress crashes, and, not missing a beat, he tells us, “Don’t sit down and cry if you fail one time. Just do it again.” On his second try he succeeds and celebrates, exclaiming “Yoohoo, I got my new skunk!”
Charming kid – with excellent advice! whether on the golf course or in a digital game or in the classroom. Underlying Crumple’s advice is remarkable optimism and confidence: “If you keep trying, you can do it too,” he seems to say. He’s made friends with failure. And here he found success so sweet that he burst into celebratory song, Crumple’s version of a golfer’s fist pump after sinking a long putt to birdie a hole :-).