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Learning to fail

February 15, 2012

(Picture credits to Columbia Pictures) 

I was reading a little while back about a school that is teaching people how to fail.

This is a brilliant idea.  I wish my school had done that.

It’s a life skill that you need to practice, but which the culture we live in seems to be making harder.

We test and examine children for nearly 5 consecutive years, 8 if you go to university (and I may be underestimating that total, as I’m only going on my own experience).  Whether it’s internal pressure, peer pressure, parental pressure, is there any wonder that it becomes paralysing?   And in most cases the pressures that people put on themselves are the worst of all.

And loser is one of the commonest insults in use.

Which is why I find the concept of ‘gamification’ genuinely worrying.  If everything becomes a competition – something that you can win at – then will we end up with people self selecting themselves out of participation?  Never trying something new because they worry too much about not being good at it?

The thing that hammered this all into context was an article I read this evening about unemployment – titled ‘I wouldn’t wish this on anyone’.  It made me stop and wonder how I’d manage if I was in the same situation.  When times get tougher, the number of people who can win is limited.

I find it interesting that with the unemployment rate so high – 8.4% – two-thirds of all those unemployed are women.  Is that something to do with a genetic makeup that makes us so risk averse? Or unable to deal with setbacks / failure?

And in general, if we get to a point where people don’t dare to try things, how will we get anything done?  And if you don’t know how to behave when failure (inevitably) occurs, how do you make sure that it doesn’t paralyse you.

It’s so hard to stand up, hold up your hands and say “well, that didn’t go very well really”. It’s even harder to (in the words of Batman Begins) learn to pick yourself back up and try something else.

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