Excerpt, Originally published in the Hill https://thehill.com/opinion/education/3672060-success-demands-a-willingness-to-fail/
By SHELDON H. JACOBSON, PH.D., OPINION CONTRIBUTOR
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Inventor Thomas Edison was known for finding the winning solution by trial and error, or hunt and search, with each unsuccessful attempt a stepping stone to the right answer. He believed that perspiration, not inspiration were at the foundation of many great inventions and advances. As such, failure was the keystone for his many successes and inventions.
Mistakes are the stepping stones to future success. When mistakes are made, lessons can be learned that provide insights into making better decisions in the future.
Of course, if such lessons are not embraced, and future decisions are not better informed, then mistakes become the norm. Theoretical physicist Albert Einstein referred to this as insanity, believing that the same actions will produce different results.
Mistakes are a byproduct of taking actions into unchartered waters. It means taking risks. When such actions and their results get amplified on social media, they become subject to public scrutiny and criticism.
Social media gives everyone the ticket to be a public critic. It is easy to become a harsh arbiter when one is safely barricaded in a cyber castle. This pushes some people in the public eye, like our elected representatives, to be less bold, traversing the safe route rather than the bold one. The net product of such an environment is fewer risks, fewer mistakes — and over time, fewer successes.
Our whole society has been gravitating toward an objective that is built less around finding success and more around avoiding failure. The challenge is that when the focus is around not failing, success becomes more difficult to attain.
It is far riskier to take no risks than to assume an appropriate level of risk commensurate with the rewards that are available. Think of the person who puts their money in a bank account earning a pittance of interest while inflation erodes its buying power. By unknowingly believing they are taking no risk, they are assuming risks that will cost them far more over time.
While young people need courses that teach them life skills to earn a living and manage their finances, teaching them the benefits of risk-taking and how to use failure as stepping stones for future success should be staples in our education system at every level. The challenge may be finding people with the necessary competencies to instruct on such topics.