McArdle on how important it is to be able to learn to fail. Learning how to fail well is one of the secrets to success. I've failed at very many things, over the years. If you're not failing, you're not really pushing yourself. You're not growing. You're not learning important lessons about how to bounce back when -- as is inevitable -- you do hit a wall you can't get over. She's quite right about all this.

No one will listen, of course, because the stakes are too high. It isn't just colleges that think this way, because these markers of perfection aren't really about accomplishment but about obedience to the expectations of your superiors. The Unfailing are reliable, not for the kind of entrepreneurs that McArdle is thinking of when she talks about the Dot-Coms, but for the big bureaucracies that dominate the centers of power in DC and New York.

Get on with one of those, and you're set for life. It won't matter that you've never learned to think for yourself, but only to parrot carefully what you've been told by your superiors is the right answer. That's just what they want you to do. Unfailingly.


DL Sly said...

Why, that sounds eerily like indoctrination, Grim. Shirley you don't mean that *our* government, institutions of higher learning and business would enjoin in a "Good Ol' Boys Club" in order to further a collective agenda?
Why...that's just silly.

E Hines said...

It seems to me that McArdle isn't talking about being able to learn to fail; she's talking instead about a two stage thing: being able to not fear failure and then to recover from it. Those are two different concepts.

Learning to fail is to learn to accept it and to say, "Oh, well." And you never get to the part about recovery. You never get past the early failure that is, barring an immensely hot hand, nearly inevitable.

As to the (near) inevitability of failure, that's true only in the intermediate stages. For those who truly have learned the lessons McArdle wrote about at the link, they'll never fail the final endeavor; at worst, they'll just run out of time before succeeding at it.

Eric Hines

Grim said...

...they'll never fail the final endeavor...

Or maybe they will. But it will be for highly honorable reasons.

douglas said...

One has to learn to lose fear of failure (in practice/training) so that one may learn from it and have greatly reduced chances of failing at the time one is tested. We work hard to get that message through to our architecture students. Too many won't explore ideas, won't look, but will restrain themselves to production of the already known (a dangerous place for one young and still unlearned).