Why is Failure a Path to Success?

Upon Failure, Try Again

There’s a Chinese proverb that says: “If you get up one more time than you fall, you will make it through.”

Common sense tells us that everyone will be failing at something at some point in their lives, and the secret to success is to get up and move on. That’s the point of that proverb, and the point of today’s post – failure.

Failure is part of the equation that rules everything. By accessing the possibility of failure and by taking lessons from your failures, you will become better in what you do. If you don’t experience failure, how can you prevent it in the future?

That’s common sense, and we are not adding much to something that you probably already know. So where is this going?

The Education System.

Failure is a not a good thing when you need good results, obviously. But failure is part of the learning process. And the Education System has been punishing its students way too much for failing, when that’s an ideal moment for them to learn with their own mistakes and errors.

Failure Influences Timeless Learning

The student’s learning curriculum is divided by years, and within each year you have a number of subjects from which you have to get a positive grade in order to move on to the next year. But if you fail at some of these subjects you’ll have to repeat those subjects for yet another year.

Considering the evaluation system is based on tests and exams, the students will have a couple of decisive days to prove what they’ve learned in a whole semester (or even in a whole year). That’s basically it. A full year evaluated in just a couple of days. And if the students fail, they will have to wait another year for those same decisive days, so they can try again to prove they have acquired the related knowledge.

That’s not how games work. Most modern games present you with a sequence of challenges that you need to overcome. You try to beat a challenge and if you fail, you just try again. You may fail once again, but you will immediately try your luck again. Eventually, you will overcome the challenge, with all that you’ve learned and conquered in your failures. Most of the time, it takes just a few minutes or, in the worst case scenario – if the challenge is really difficult – some days of consecutive tries (I’m looking at you, Sephiroth!)…

Effectively, you are still “punished” for failing: you have to try the same challenge again and again until you beat it. You are, however, in control of when to try again, and it takes virtually no time to try again. Besides, since games are a sequence of challenges, every time you fail at one, you don’t have to start the whole level/game again. Yay for the Save/Load system, right?

In Education, the punishment is too penalizing for the student. The student fails and has to wait, he can’t just try again whenever he/she feels ready. There’s no Try Again or Load buttons every time you fail your exam.

Different people, different paces

Different students have different learning paces. Some students absorb information fast while others take some more time to get that same information. This creates an extra burden to teachers since they cannot manage different rhythms with efficiency, if there are very disparate people in the same class. If the teacher is lecturing at a good rhythm for the faster students, the other students wont be able to keep up with the pace and will probably get frustrated and give up on learning. If the teacher goes slowly enough so that everyone can keep up, the faster students will become frustrated and bored, which will eventually lead to easier distractions.

Most single-player games don’t impose a rhythm on players. They let the player sync with the game and overcome the challenges at their own pace, making everything more rewarding.

Students would benefit from a more go as you are ready oriented model of Education. The faster learners would make a more efficient use of their time, while those who need to dedicate more time to some subjects wouldn’t feel left behind, boosting their confidence in their learning process. All students would feel in control of their lives, increasing their proactive behavior and giving them a more noticeable sense of responsibility. The idea that they would have to spend 12 or more years in school would fade away, because that would only depend on their own effort.

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