PSYCH ARTICLE

Fail street sign

What Did You Fail At Today?

How to see failing as a form of optimism and confidence

Mike Langlois, LICSW, recently wrote an incredible blog post detailing his experience talking to a group of college students on academic probation. It's a must-read, so click here to do so.  

He writes: "I shared with them the statistic that 80% of the time we play a video game we are failing at it, and asked them to think with me about why we can tolerate failure so much in video games yet have so little tolerance of failure in other parts of our lives such as school.  What was different with a video game?

One student, I'll call him John, raised his hand and said, 'I might win.'"

Why do we have so little tolerance for failure? After all, don't we as a society love stories like Michael Jordan being cut from the high school basketball team or Jeremy Lin being an undrafted guard from Harvard of all places, demoted to the D-league three times before changing the course of Knicks basketball history this season? Once a person has succeeded, their failure looks all the more glamorous. But how can someone in the midst of failing capture that optimistic glam?

It comes down to John's assertion that you might win. You might go on to be the best basketball player of all time, or maybe just the Most Improved player of the 2012 season. Or maybe you'll just play some basketball and move on.

A comment on Mike's post shares a story about a child being asked by her parents every day, "What did you fail at today?" The child would respond and the parent would say: "Terrific!"

Imagine from a young age being taught that failure is terrific. That to fail is as daily a routine as brushing your teeth. It turns failure into an optimistic adventure. To keep failing means you are trying, and learning, and growing. And with that optimism, you will succeed.

Then you'd play the 80% odds in life as well as in video games, wouldn't you?

Image: Some rights reserved by fireflythegreat

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