I’ll start this off with a question: do you think you learn better from success or from failure?
We all love the idea of success. In fact, our culture is built on it. We want to “win” and we want things to “go well”. In some ways, it’s a natural human instinct.
But we have to face the facts: we don’t live in a perfect world. Or a safe one. Or even a world where “success” can be expected as the norm.
Certainly in our culture, success, as defined by American standards, is accessible. But we have to admit that even in our culture, failure is to be expected more than success in individual endeavors.
This is especially true of young people.
We have a cultural myth that ignores reality and disregards the necessary process of learning that all people have to go through.
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Due to the material success of TikTok stars and young music icons, we’ve bought into the idea that any young person in their twenties can and should be wildly successful early on in their adult lives. In other words, we put far too much weight on the “final destination” to the detriment of the “journey”. We expect that young adults should be “finished” sometime in their twenties. We completely ignore the natural and unavoidable process of development that happens in each human life.
Young adults in their twenties aren’t “finished” growing. In fact, from a personality, character, and skill perspective, they’ve hardly just begun.
The Importance of Failure
Now, back to our original question: failure or success, which teaches us more?
At Unbound we submit to you that failure often teaches us more than success could. If we bar young people from failing, we keep them from valuable learning opportunities.
So what bars young adults from failure?
It’s this culture of expecting success. When we expect success from young adults, it can paralyze them. Because they know that failure is likely (or at least possible), they don’t actually try.
Failure Is An Option
Young people need to know that failure is an option. They should be encouraged to step out and try. Failure is a part of life. We shouldn’t expect success from young people on the first attempt. Instead, a healthy freedom to fail can help students step out and make an attempt. From there, their failure will teach them much if they have the perspective to learn, and their success will also have important lessons for them if they’re able to slow down and learn.
Experience is the best teacher, according to common wisdom. We can learn from Experience if we never get it! That’s why it’s so important to let young people try things, fail, and try again. Rather than expecting success right away and paralyzing them, we should encourage them to fail early, fail often, and fail forward.
Ascend gives students a chance to practically try things and face failure while they build college credit towards a bachelor’s degree. To learn more, schedule a free consultation.
Jace Bower is the Marketing Coordinator for Unbound. An Unbound alumnus, he has experienced firsthand the powerful advantages of doing college differently and participating in an intentional community. Jace graduated with his bachelor’s degree in History in 2016 and has worked in restaurant management and marketing since then. He also served on the Unbound Student Cabinet in 2019.
The author of two books and a semi-regular blogger, Jace can often be found doing something with words. When he’s not, chances are he’s reading about theology, listening to music, or playing pool or tennis with his wife Shannon in their Virginia home.