Failing forward?! Whatever does that mean? Especially in the context of a university?!
Let’s think back to what were you rewarded for in school. It was for good grades, right? What were we “punished” for? Failing. Naturally, we trained ourselves to avoid it at all costs.
So, how do you prime incoming undergraduates for accepting failure as a part of the learning process?
You invite them into it.
Despite knowing the value of having a good relationship to failure, I had to check myself. When I got the request to speak to all the incoming students at UC Berkeley on Failing Forward last month, I got up close and personal with my fears… and my own message. Would I be able to pull it off? Does what I have to say matter to 10,000+ incoming students?? What if I… failed?!
The concern I was feeling was not unfounded. This is a big, and NEW, important topic for Cal. A university that prides itself on its excellence now asks students to fail. Pretty noteworthy. So much so the news even picked up on what a few professors and I had to say about it: http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/08/18/uc-berkeley-wants-students-to-know-its-ok-to-fail/
So how did I get started? I needed to manage the enormity of this task with the time I was given, though my fallback was to get up there unprepared and flat-out fail. Why not prove to myself and everyone else that the world would keep going and I would be just fine! Fortunately, I didn’t have to do that. 🙂
So instead, here it is. If you find yourself retreating from opportunities for fear of failure, I welcome you to consider my message to this year’s incoming class.
Two steps forward, one step back