The Power of Failure

Kelley - Suprise, Arizona
Entered on April 16, 2009
Age Group: 18 - 30
  • Listen to This I Believe on RadioPublic

  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

My students challenge me to evaluate my beliefs and attitudes on a daily basis, confirming deeply held values and discarding antiquated thinking.

As a high school teacher, I am a frequent observer of the quiet, and sometimes not-so-quiet, lives of the group of diverse adolescents who cross my path each day. I am privy to the triumphs, failures, secrets, foibles and follies of many of them. I see in their lives lessons that help remind me of what’s truly important in this life.

This week, in the midst of our student council elections, I have seen the beauty of the democratic process up close. Perhaps too close! After much hype and talk….the results were in. And just like in real life — Sometimes, the best candidate loses. Sometimes, the best candidate wins. Sometimes, the best candidate was too shy to run in the first place. Sometimes, campaigning can get ugly. People may rip your posters down – draw mustaches on your carefully chosen photos – and say mean things about you.

Sometimes, no matter how visually attractive your campaign sign, no matter how catchy your slogan, no matter how many pieces of candy you pass out, no matter how sure you were that you would be a shoe-in – You just don’t win! The other guy does – and he may not have even tried!

And still….I believe in power of taking chances…..even though doing so may lead to failure.

I have seen failure alter lives, sometimes for the worse, other times for the better. When approached with the right attitude, failure can have a transformative effect in our lives, driving us to learn valuable lessons and persevere to finally achieve extraordinary things. It’s all in how we handle it.

When confronted with disappointment or failure, I have seen people react to perceived failure either one of two ways:

1. Wallow in your disappointment. Focus on your failure. Quit trying. Be miserable.

2. Move on. Learn from your disappointment. Keep on trying. Be happy.

Time and experience have taught me what my students often don’t quite yet understand. Sometimes, in order for us to appreciate triumphs and happiness that may come to us in life, we have to experience disappointments and sadness. In the moment, this can be hard to appreciate. Especially if you are a teenager.

But the truth is – most disappointments don’t last…..and while it may seem like your world has come crashing down around you —

In the end… will work out. It somehow always does. And if not….well then high school will be over in four years anyway. And until then….keep on taking chances.