Fear of Falling

Today’s post focuses on what many people fear: failure. I think others can relate to those feelings of fear. Those moments in our lives where things are spiraling downward and we feel like a shell of ourselves. Those moments where we feel embarrassed because we did not succeed like we had in the past. Those moments where we did not live up to our own, or others, expectations of us.

The Harvard Commencement speech by J.K. Rowling was a great reminder to me that failure is a part of life. And to paraphrase a portion of her talk, to not experience failure in your life, is by default, failure. It reminds me that taking risks in our lives, in our careers, in our relationships, is necessary to finding passion and fulfillment.

In classrooms, it is quite easy to spot the students who are passionate. These are not always the students that understand the material or answer the questions correctly. No, these are the students who seem “built” for this career path. They are the ones who light up when they start to talk about the topic. These are the few that have found their path early on and have pursued it with a passion. For others, it is about putting ourselves out there and seeing where we fit in. As J.K. Rowling says, it is in the moments of failure where we learn the most about ourselves and grasp on to those parts of ourselves that we desire and value the most. She notes how failure and poverty pushed her to write the books that has since made her famous many times over. For others, failure may make us realize that we do not work as hard at something as we should and this failure fortifies our desire to continue on this path but with a dogged determination. Other failures force us to question ourselves to a deeper level and may make us reassesses our careers, our relationships, or other areas. But these failures, while not pleasant and not something we should shoot for, due provide valuable insight into ourselves. If only we listen and do not fear the fall, we can rise with new insight.

3 thoughts on “Fear of Falling”

  1. Really great post, and I think as a whole I agree that failure is as much a part of learning as success. And really, I think that when we think about different levels of learning for our students, there is a difference between those who fail and get frustrated and those who fail and learn to try again after assessing the situation. As professors we should be stressing that failure is ok and then teach them how to go about fixing the problem.

  2. I think it’s also important – especially as a future educator – to emphasize that rebounding from failure is not measured on any kind of time scale. During my first ever graduate level class, I did not fully grasp some of the concepts presented. This became clear when I was unable to solve a very challenging question on the final and therefore ended with a B in the class. To my measures, I failed.

    However, I still – after four more years – can’t guarantee that I can correctly answer that question. I’m still striving to piece together all of the components in a topic that can be extremely challenging and fully understand what assumptions and details must be gathered to get that question correct. But that’s why I’m still learning, right?

    1. You make a great point that it is difficult to place a time scale on recovering from a failure. There is the initial shock that takes place, but more importantly, there is the assessment. There is a need to take stock of why we failed. What did we learn from that failure? How are we going to learn from that situation and become a better version of ourselves? I think these are the moment that people point to when they say failure it an opportunity to grow. Why fix something that is not broken? It is when things fall apart, that we are able to repair them with a new perspective.

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