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They All Failed!

And you can too. Here’s why messing up may be the secret to success. 

Kevin Winter/Getty Images (BeyoncÉ); Matthew Brady/Buyenlarge/Getty Images (Lincoln); Toby Canham/Getty Images (Rowling); JEFF HAYNES/AFP/Getty Images (Jordan)

    Once upon a time, there was a boy who loved basketball. In 10th grade, he tried out for the varsity team. But when the list of players was posted, his name wasn’t on it. The boy was devastated. He went home, shut himself in his room, and cried.

    But he didn’t give up. Before long, he went back to the gym. He ran, shot, and dribbled until he was exhausted. Then he did it again, and again, and again. 

    The next year, he made varsity. Five years after that, he was playing in the NBA. Soon, people all over the world knew his name: Michael Jordan.

    There was once a boy who loved basketball. In 10th grade, he tried out for a team. He didn’t make it. The boy was devastated. He went home and cried.

    But he didn’t give up. Soon, he was back in the gym. He ran, shot, and dribbled. He did it again and again. 

    The next year, he made the team. Five years later, he was in the NBA. Soon, he was famous. Who was he? Michael Jordan!

    Once upon a time, there was a boy who loved basketball. In 10th grade, he tried out for his school’s varsity team, but when the list of players was posted, his name wasn’t on it. The boy was devastated. He went home, shut himself in his room, and cried.

    But he didn’t give up. Before long, he went back to the gym. He ran, shot, and dribbled until he was exhausted. Then he did it again, and again, and again. 

    The next year, he made varsity. Five years after that, he was playing in the NBA. Soon, people all over the world knew his name: Michael Jordan.

Fear of Failure

    Jordan became one of the best basketball players ever. In the 1990s, he led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA championships. He made 14 All-Star teams and won two Olympic gold medals.

    But during his career, Jordan missed 12,000 shots. He lost more than 300 games. “I’ve failed over and over again in my life,” Jordan said in a Nike ad. “And that is why I succeed.”

    If that sounds crazy to you, you’re not alone. Most of us are afraid to fail. We don’t speak up in class because we might say something stupid. We’d rather pass the ball than take a shot we might miss. 

    Our fear of failure isn’t surprising. From an early age, we’re surrounded by people who value perfection. Parents tell us to bring home A’s. Coaches teach us to go for the gold, not the silver or bronze. And on social media, people share only the coolest parts of their lives. Usually they keep their struggles to themselves.

    Jordan is one of the best basketball players ever. He led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA championships. He made 14 All-Star teams. He won two Olympic gold medals.

    But he also missed 12,000 shots. And he lost more than 300 games. “I’ve failed over and over again in my life,” Jordan said. “And that is why I succeed.”

    That might sound crazy. Most of us are afraid to fail. We don’t speak up in class. Why? We might say something stupid. We’d rather pass the ball than take a shot. Why? We might miss. 

    Our fear of failure is not surprising. Most people around us value perfection. Parents tell us to get A’s. Coaches tell us to win gold medals. On social media, people share only good things. They don’t share the bad things.

    Jordan eventually became one of the greatest basketball players ever. In the 1990s, he led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA championships. He made 14 All-Star teams and won two Olympic gold medals.

    But during his career, Jordan—a basketball legend—missed 12,000 shots and lost more than 300 games. “I’ve failed over and over again in my life, and that is why I succeed,” Jordan said in a Nike ad.

    If that sounds crazy to you, you’re not alone. Most of us fear failure. We don’t participate in class discussions because we worry that we’ll say something stupid, and we’d rather pass the ball than take a shot we might miss. 

    Our fear of failure isn’t surprising. From an early age, we are constantly surrounded by people who value perfection. Parents and other family members encourage us to bring home A’s, and coaches teach us to go for the gold, not the silver or bronze. On social media, people share the coolest parts of their lives but usually keep their struggles to themselves.

True Grit

    What’s so bad about being afraid to fail? It might seem like a “win at everything” attitude would push you to succeed. In reality, it can seriously hold you back. For example, many people get one bad grade on an algebra test and decide they’re not smart enough for math. 

    According to experts, that’s the wrong way to think. They say failing is good for you. It teaches you to stick with a task even when it gets hard. The ability to do this is called grit.

    The people who do best in life are not always the smartest or the most talented. They’re the ones who work the hardest. To people with grit, failure is not a reason to give up. It’s a chance to improve.

    A “win at everything” attitude might seem like a good thing. But being afraid to fail can be a bad thing. It can hold you back. For example, some people might get a bad grade on a math test. Then they think they’re bad at math. They might decide it’s not worth trying to do well.

    Experts say that’s the wrong way to think. They say failing is good for you. You can learn to stick with a task. This is called grit.

    The people who do best in life are not always the smartest. They are not always the most talented. But they are the ones who work the hardest. To people with grit, failure is not a reason to quit. It’s a chance to improve.

    What’s so bad about being afraid to fail? A “win at everything” attitude might seem like it would push you to succeed, but in reality it can seriously hold you back. For example, many people get one bad grade on an algebra test and then decide they’re not smart enough for math. 

    According to experts, that’s the wrong way to think. They say failing is beneficial because it teaches you to stick with even the most grueling of tasks. The ability to do this is called grit.

    The people who do best in life are not always the smartest or the most talented—they’re the ones who work the hardest. To people with grit, failure is not a reason to give up, but rather an opportunity to improve.

Failing Up

    There’s one place where failure is definitely valued: technology companies. To the leaders of these companies, a failed app or website isn’t a problem. It’s a chance to build something better next time. They call this “failing up.”

    Tech leaders have even gathered for events called FailCons. At FailCons, they learn from ideas that didn’t work. “Sometimes things just don’t go as planned,” says the FailCon website. “But that doesn’t mean you should stop trying.”

    That message got through to a man named Evan Williams. In 2005, he developed an app called Odeo. Not many people used it. It was a big disappointment. But Williams learned from his mistakes and kept working hard. He showed grit. And a few years later, he helped create one of the biggest social media sites ever: Twitter.

    Technology companies know failure is important. To the leaders of these companies, a failed app or website isn’t a problem. It’s a chance to make something better. They call this “failing up.”

    Tech leaders hold FailCons. At FailCons, they learn from ideas that didn’t work. “Sometimes things just don’t go as planned,” says the FailCon website. “But that doesn’t mean you should stop trying.”

    Evan Williams knows that message is true. In 2005, he developed an app called Odeo. Not many people used the app. It was disappointing. But Williams learned from his mistakes. He kept working hard. He showed grit. And a few years later, he helped create Twitter. It’s now a huge social media site.

    There’s one place where failure is definitely valued: technology companies. To the leaders of these companies, a failed app or website isn’t a problem—it’s a chance to build something better next time. They call this “failing up.”

    Tech leaders have even gathered for events called FailCons where they learn from ideas that didn’t work. “Sometimes things just don’t go as planned,” says the FailCon website. “But that doesn’t mean you should stop trying.”

    That message got through to a man named Evan Williams. In 2005, he developed an app called Odeo. Not many people used it, and it was a big disappointment. But Williams learned from his mistakes and kept working hard. He showed grit. And a few years later, he helped create one of the biggest social media sites ever: Twitter.

The Process

    Right now, your future is wide open. Years from now, you could create a famous website. You could act on the big stage or compete for a spot on the Olympic ski team. 

    Dreams like these are important. But you won’t reach them if you’re focused only on the end goal. People who care only about results give up easily.

    To get good at the things you love to do, you have to enjoy the process of learning and getting better. That’s how Michael Jordan became a star. He stuck with basketball because he loved shooting as much as scoring, playing as much as winning. 

    What do you truly love to do? One thing is certain: You’ll find out only if you’re not afraid to fail. 

    Right now, your future is wide open. You could create a famous website. You could act on the big stage. Or you could compete in the Olympics. 

    Dreams like these are important. But they won’t come true if you think only of the end goal. People who care only about winning give up easily.

    To get good at things, you have to enjoy the process of learning and getting better. That’s how Michael Jordan became a star. He stuck with basketball because he loved shooting as much as scoring. He loved playing as much as winning. 

    What do you love to do? One thing is for sure: You’ll find out only if you’re not afraid to fail.

    Right now, your future is wide open. Years from now, you could create a famous website, act on the big stage, or compete for a spot on the Olympic ski team. 

    Dreams like these are important, but you won’t reach them if you’re focused only on the end goal. People who care only about results tend to give up easily.

    To excel at the things you love to do, you have to enjoy the process of learning and getting better. That’s how Michael Jordan became a star. He stuck with basketball because he loved shooting as much as scoring, playing as much as winning. 

    What do you truly love to do? One thing is certain: You’ll find out only if you’re not afraid to fail. 

Teen Photos Courtesy of Families

ACTIVITY:
Put It Together

Why is failure a good thing,
and how can it help you succeed?

What to do: Complete the sentences below using examples from the texts.

What to do: Complete the sentences below using examples from the texts.

What to do: Complete the sentences below using examples from the texts.

Failing at something helps build grit, which ___
HINT: Look in the first text. What does it mean to have grit?

Failing at something helps build grit, which ___
HINT: Look in the first text. What does it mean to have grit?

Failing at something helps build grit, which ___
HINT: Look in the first text. What does it mean to have grit?

To turn a failure into a future success, you can ___
HINT: Look in both texts. What is failing up? How can it help you succeed?

To turn a failure into a future success, you can ___
HINT: Look in both texts. What is failing up? How can it help you succeed?

To turn a failure into a future success, you can ___
HINT: Look in both texts. What is failing up? How can it help you succeed?

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