Failure is Closer to Success than Inactivity

Yesterday was February 9th, 2005 and I saw a Chinese writer, Raymond, I think.  He was being interviewed by Barry something on the PBS station.  They were talking about Chinese beliefs and Barry was adulating Raymond for coming up with some theories and putting them in his new book.  Most of what they said was hogwash, but the two did discuss something I’ve believed for years.  They just put it into a form I haven’t seen before.  It’s the title to this work, ‘Failure is Closer to Success than Inactivity’.  What does it mean?  Well, I haven’t read Raymond’s book and I’m not likely to do so, but I would like to explain what it means to me and you, the reader, can take it for what it’s worth.

I believe that failure is not well understood.  If your kid brought home a failure on the report card, you’d consider this a crisis and implement new rules to correct the problem.  No school system should fail any kid.  They should put them through a process that guarantees success.  If the student tries and fails on the first 200 attempts and then succeeds, give him a passing grade.  Leave no kid behind!  Teachers are hired to teach.  Don’t allow them to quit, until the job is done. What does an ‘F’ on the report card mean?  That the teacher failed to teach?  Fire the teacher or reorganize so the kid can pass.  If it’s a math problem that we’re trying to learn how to do, it’s simple.  Either the kid can do it or he or she can’t.  If the student can’t, what’s wrong?  Does the child understand the method?  If so, then the teacher can teach the method or, if the teacher prefers, he or she can set up the computer to explain the method, over and over again, with each failure, until the lesson is finally learned by the student and then the student can go to the next problem or the next lesson.  No Failures!

When one gets out into the real world, one tries and often fails and if one feels discouraged, because one is reminded of the bad experience in school, then we have a loser on our hands and that’s not good.  We need to remove the fear of failure and allow any student a success at every junction, even if the student has to try a thousand times, before learning and finding success.  Everyone can succeed!  If we change the way of thinking about failure, we can greatly improve the educational system for young people and breed success in every child.

Failure is part of life.  We begin by observing the world.  We collect facts and organize data and one day, we have enough information to form an hypothesis and we promptly do so.  Next, we test our


hypothesis and see if we understand the world and wham!  We fail!  Does it hurt?  No!  We pick ourselves up, dust off and go back to it.  No parents to scold us.  No teachers to send home a report card.  We just failed and we go on.  Most of us realize that we learned something by failing.  We thought we understood the world.  We formulated a theory and tested it and we discovered that we don’t fully understand.  Now, we can go back and try to figure out what is lacking in our knowledge.  Several rounds of trial and error, testing and revision and we make improvements and our theory gets better and better, until we finally achieve success.

What if we didn’t dust ourselves off and get back to it?  What if we were defeated by the first failure?  Where would we wind up?  A man who is easily defeated doesn’t wind up with the best wife.  His kids don’t go to the best schools and he won’t get the big house, on the hill, with an ocean view.  He’s likely to be labeled a ‘loser’.  In life, you have to try, you are going to fail and you have to get up and get back into the race, because if you don’t, you lose.  Each time you fail, you add a layer of knowledge to your collection of facts and information and you become more capable with time.  One day, you’re able to succeed!

Failure is a lot closer to success than inactivity.