Success – The end point or the next step?


Image: © Jan Csernoch |                                                                                                           What’s on the other side? Literally, only one way to find out.


A tweet crossed my path today, as they are want to do, with a phrase ‘culture of failure’ and this started me thinking about our perceptions of success and failure. There has been a lot said regarding the importance of failure for learning, however the waters are muddied somewhat as we carry around different ideas of what these concepts represent. I don’t feel that the current ideas of embracing failure, for the sake of learning and creativity in general, are aimed at the end of the journey. It seems that the current discourse on the subject of failure has pulled failure back from the distant end of the journey, to the immediate next step of the journey. In this sense, failure is not what it used to be. It has become part of the process instead of the outcome. This is powerful, and if this is what is deemed a ‘culture of failure’ I welcome our new definition. I am not sure that I am too keen on a world where success is a rainbow, vanishing as we approach. I like the immediate. We can do something about that. There may be no ‘there’. Only a ‘here’, and this is where success and failure belong in the learning process.

Learning is a house with many doors. Success depends on opening, or building, the right ones along the way. Sometimes we have an idea of where we are going. Sometimes we do not. We never really know what is going to be on the other side of any of them. Success and failure are just the unique combination of the doors we move through.

Tweets (May 10, 2014)

  A carefully co-constructed-with-the-learner rubric makes it easier for the learner to see what direction success is.

  I’m not sure we always want success. How does that line up with culture of failure in vogue now?

  Depending on whether success is defined as the end point or the next step. If success is a rainbow? 


How do you find out that you can’t build a chicken coop?


Some little chicks, looking for a home.

I have the answer to this ancient mystery. You find out exactly half way through the construction process. That is, you find out after you have started to build. You suspected as much before – now you know. These five chicks were hatched at my school by some primary students. When I agreed that I would build a chicken coop for them (How could I say no?), how was I to know that I couldn’t (notice the use of past tense here) actually  do it. Well, I am halfway through and it is now dawning on me that I have just created the world’s most structurally unsound 8ft cube.  But, don’t despair for me just yet, as I think I have also just realized what questions I need to ask and I have a plan. I understand quite a bit more about structural integrity as a concept now than I did a week ago, and I have a good reason for wanting to find out – little fluffy reasons in fact. Have I failed – no. Am I a better chicken coop builder now – yes, marginally. It is a good reminder of how powerful mistakes and detours can be in the learning process. When I finish, I will post a photo of one of the least aesthetically pleasing, but sturdy, chicken coops you are ever likely to see, but I won’t quit my day job just yet.