Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Rethinking Failure

Here is a project I've done with students on rethinking failure and mistakes.

The project is for them to create a motivational poster about failure. To gather information, we watch a handful of videos and read a couple short blog posts. Here they are:

First we watch this Michael Jordan commercial:

Here are some of the ideas my students write down from that clip:

  • I've failed over and over and over again in my life, and that is why I succeed.
  • Failure leads to success.
  • Failure is good in many ways.
  • Without failure its impossible to succeed.
  • You'll never get good at something until you make mistakes.
  • Failure lets us know what we need to learn.

Here are some of the ideas my students take from this second Michael Jordan video:
  • Failure can give you strength.
  • It may not be God that give you talent but it is your effort.
  • Failure leads to talent.
  • Pain can be motivational.
  • You have to start small to create big.
Here's the final video we watch:

Some of the names like Lucille Ball, and Ulysses S. Grant were not recognizable for my students, but others such as Michael Jordan and The Beatles were. There are many lessons to be taken from this video, but perhaps none are as powerful as the idea that mistakes and failures are never the exception - they are the rule.

After discussing these videos, I hand out this small collection reading on mistakes and failures. Click on the picture to see the PDF.


I then provide the kids with larger poster paper and other supplies so that they can create a motivation poster on rethinking failure and mistakes.


  1. Great post, Joe. I love the videos. I've never seen the second MJ commercial. Thanks!

  2. Hi,

    I like this one ' Failure is not in the falling, but not getting up '

  3. I had never seen these videos. Thank you so much for sharing. I love: "I fail, that is why I succeed!"

  4. Randy Nelson, dean of Pixar University once said, "Without dropping, there is no juggling."

  5. A powerful lesson for Parenting 101, Teaching 101 and Management 101!

  6. Like the lesson idea. It's tough getting students over the stigma of failing from time to time.

    Ever thought of using Glogster for the project or

  7. Awesome post joe! Today we, society, expect our students, and ourselves, to be the best, to be perfect in all ways of life, all the while not encouraging risk because with risk comes the increased chance of mistakes. We need a change of how we look at success. Bravo Joe! I think you're on the right track here!

  8. I am inspired to try/adapt this in our new bilingual (English and Spanish)International School in Mexico with multi-aged classrooms. We want to support independent thinkers who can take risks. Wish me luck!