Why We Should Encourage Mistakes and Failure?

The Growth Mindset's Power of YET!
Power of ‘YET’ or ‘Not YET’!

“Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It’s quite simple, really: Double your rate of failure. You are thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn’t at all. You can be discouraged by failure or you can learn from it, so go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because remember, that’s where you will find success.” –Thomas J. Watson



“Failure is not the enemy of success, but a requirement FOR success!” __ JaDonnia Bishop



Carol Dweck, Research Professor at Stanford University, encourages the construct of a ‘growth mindset’. It implies that mistakes will be made along the way towards learning and achievement. Present and existing capacity can be enhanced by embracing learning as a process by which steps made towards growth are recognized and celebrated. It encourages us to face challenges by acknowledging that we won’t always ‘get it right’ the first time or every time. Important message: mistakes do not define ability, capacity, potential or who we are as individuals.


“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” __Thomas Edison


For school children, getting an ‘F’ on a Math exam does not deem them a failure; instead revision, review and reflection through hard work encourages their success.  Besides, isn’t that what we want? Learning from mistakes and failures? They also must learn that mistakes and failed attempts are only temporary, and not fixed commentaries on potential. Professor Dweck believes in the power of ‘YET’. So what that you made a mistake or failed to get it right this time; it means that you just haven’t gotten it….yet!

When we de-stigmatize mistakes and failures, then we increase the likelihood that children will face challenges with optimism and take risks while actively engaged in the process of .  Through persevere with hard work, determination and will eventually triumph. There’s less embarrassment, self esteem is not negatively impacted by failure, and thus we are left with the resilience and motivation to try again-goal intact.

“Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try.”

I know that I am a ‘learn by doing’ person. When I fail at something like trying to put together a bookcase, that typically comes as an unassembled kit, my desire to complete the task successfully overrides my frustration and I push on to try again. Eventually, WHEN IT’S RIGHT, THE FEELING OF ACCOMPLISHMENT IS SO GRATIFYING THAT THE PREVIOUS FAILURES MAKE IT WORTH THE EFFORT.

“Don’t worry about failures, worry about the chances you miss when you don’t even try.” -Jack Canfield

This is what we want to instill in children and ourselves, too. If we have a goal and we have tried one way to accomplish that goal and it didn’t work, we don’t want to trash it and give up with the feelings of defeat. Don’t decide that you are incapable of arriving at this goal. Instead, revise, review, and reflect on your last plan. Acknowledge that it didn’t pan out, identify the successes within the failed attempt, and the re-group. Regain focus, keeping your eyes on the prize, or goal, and then try again. It’s ok to fail, and it’s ok to make mistakes, but no matter what….don’t give up. If a goal is worthy, and important enough to your being, passing a class, or an exam, believe that it is within your reach to succeed.

“The only place that SUCCESS comes before WORK is in the dictionary!__Mary Smith

Teach children the value of hard work and allow ample opportunity for successes and small victories along the route to mission accomplished! Let them feel the joy and satisfaction that comes with successful outcomes achieved from  putting in the work. Keep them believing and they will keep trying! Within every mistake should be a highlighted ‘success’, indicating a step in the right direction. Allow children to make mistakes, absent of negative reinforcement, as that strategy tends to backfire on us, and play out in the classroom. They will begin to disengage out of discouraged frustration, leading to disruptive behaviors. So, take the stigma out of making mistakes as you facilitate critical thinking, deep learning, positive growth and SEL development, but always encourage hard work.

We could never have advanced in society-science, technology, medicine, genetics, architecture…….all successes started from a series of failed attempts. Were it not for the belief in the power of ‘yet’, the vision of progress and things ‘new’, coupled with the motivated determination to succeed and ‘get it right’,  we may still be communicating by snail mail only.  When infants  become toddlers, at first they crawl [self-motivated]. and before they learned to walk, they supporting their weight in on objectswere encouraged to take their first stepYet[no pun intended], we only celebrate the end result – the victories. Particularly appropriate for  reframing students’ perceptions of the STEM subjects, begin teaching students about some of the errors that MUST HAVE been made along the path to many discoveries.  Bring back the joy of challenges and the anticipated excitement of success and triumph. Until then, encourage mistakes, because you are encouraging success framed within a growth mindset. By the way, I did successfully assemble that bookcase after two tries. In fact, I put two of them together, and they both sit in my home, the very room  that I am communicating with you.

“The difference between try and triumph is a little umph.” -Marvin Phillips

P.S. There are a few extra screws that were unused, so I guess they weren’t needed….but ‘I got it right’, I think! I hope! Books are already on the shelves, because of the power of ‘YET’! Encourage mistakes along the way to getting it right.


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