In engineering, if we want to know how strong a material is, we test it til it breaks. Pull and pull and pull and see just how much it can take. Record what happened just before and you have the answer.
I think this applies to a lot of things in life. One of my recent quotes that I really should put on some poster somewhere is “We never know just how good we are until we fail.” Think about it. We go through this crazy world trying this and that and the other thing and trying to live up to our potential in whatever areas interest us. And we have no idea what that potential is until we fail.
Education is much the same. Of course, making my teaching philosophy statement something on the order of “I plan to push these kids harder and harder until they fail.” may not work out so well with search committees. But as an aspiring professor, isn’t that exactly what I want to do? To provide an environment where any student can push themselves to the full limits of their potential? And in that final moment when they can’t take any more, to be there to show them that there is nothing wrong with failing. That life’s lessons are often much better learned the hard way. Personally, I will always remember the mistakes in my academic career that cost me the most, as those are the ones I will never repeat.
As I embark on this grandiose journey into the world of electronic thoughts that bounce around at the speed of light, I cannot see its limit. I have no idea when it will fail me. I do know that it will help me to continue to expand my knowledge and depth further and further toward my potential. I look forward to all I will learn, through success and failure, along the way.