The Power of Failure

The Power of Failure 

Failure is necessary for success; yet, it’s something we all fear.  Failure means we’ve messed up, failure means we are wrong, failure means we weren’t successful, and in most cases, failure leads to an end.  However, that is where as a society we are wrong.  Failure does not mean the end; it is simply a new path and a new way.  

Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper, Edison failed 1,000 times, Van Gogh sold one painting in his lifetime, the Wright Brothers crashed many times; yet, today they are deemed some of the most successful and creative people.

When students ask, “Is this good enough” the question breaks my heart.  They are asking this question because they want to be done with a task.  They are not asking the question because they see the assignment as a valuable learning experience or a place to figure out what they do not know.  They do not see it as an opportunity to correct their mistakes and a way to learn more.  They ask if it is good enough because they do not have a growth mindset.  Their focus is not on growing their brain.  Students with a growth mindset are motivated to learn, are persistent, resilient, and focused because they believe that their ability will develop with effort.  They know that their neurons can make more connections.  

Dr. Carol Dwek’s research has led to the discovery that students with a fixed mindset want to look smart in front of their peers whereas students with a growth mindset want to learn.  These students with a growth mindset are more likely to accept challenges, persevere, and learn from their mistakes (The Impact of a Growth Mindset).  Disney, Edison, Van Gogh, and the Wright Brothers had a growth mindset and they used their mistakes to drive their next attempts.  These innovators understood the power of “yet.”  

Edison had not created the lightbulb yet, the Wright Brothers hadn’t become airborne yet, and Disney had not found success yet.  Just like, I have not run a marathon yet.  Adding this one simple word to your phrase helps to change your mindset from a fixed mindset of a goal you cannot reach to a growth mindset of a goal that just hasn’t occurred at this time.  

Dr. Dwek also encourages teachers not to reward the success of an activity but to reward the effort put into the activity (How Praise and Feedback Impact Student Outcomes).  Teachers can tell students, “I see you using your strategies, keep it up,” “You can learn to do it, I know it’s tough but let’s break it down so we can figure it out,” or “I’m proud of you for not giving up.” This language empowers students and supports the process they are going through.  It reminds them they are doing more than simply looking for a right or wrong answer.  By harnessing the power of yet and carefully providing feedback, teachers can help students and adults be less afraid to fail and more likely to see the opportunities that failure provides for growth.  

So, the next time you hear someone tell you that you failed at a task show them your excitement to grow and teach them the power in “yet.”

Erin Roberts is a Middle School Academically and Intellectually Gifted Specialist.  She is also currently enrolled in the Masters of Education Program focusing on Gifted and Talented learners at Western Carolina University.  Webmasters and other article publishers are hereby granted article reproduction as long as this article in its entirety, author’s information, and any links remain intact.  Copyright 2017 by Erin Roberts.  


“Decades of Scientific Research That Started a Growth Mindset Revolution.” The Growth Mindset – What Is Growth Mindset – Mindset Works. Mindset Works, n.d. Web. 10 Feb. 2017. <>.

“How Praise and Feedback Impact Student Outcomes.” Teacher Practices. Mindset Works, n.d. Web. 10 Feb. 2017. <>.

“The Impact of a Growth Mindset.” Science Impact. Mindset Works, n.d. Web. 13 Feb. 2017. <>.


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