Sunday Snippet: What a Great Place to Fail!
Yes, yes, we’re a day late, but we were out enjoying our last weekend of the summer and didn’t want to spend it in front of the computer! So, we hope you will please forgive us. Here are our thoughts for this week:
FAILURE. It is not a word many of us like to hear when describing our performance or that of our children. Failure is often equated with being a loser or with someone who has nothing to offer. The thought of failing will often conjure up enormous dread, sometimes to the point of making us physically sick. It is such a grossly misunderstood term and that is such a shame, because without experiencing failure few experience success!
In a past life as a high school band director, I encouraged my students to embrace their mistakes. If they played a wrong note, there was nothing they could do to change that – the proverbial horse was out of the barn! Did I want them to play poorly and not improve? Of course not! But, every mistake was a learning experience! By embracing their mistakes, they could effectively examine & identify the circumstances that resulted in that mistake and decide what they needed to change to avoid that mistake from occuring again.
Many of you may have heard the story behind the development of the post-it note. The 3M researcher who devised the post-it note was actually trying to find a super stronge adhesive, but instead created a super weak version. It stuck to objects, but easily peeled off. He failed… well, not so fast! A few years later, a fellow 3M researcher remembered the properties of this weak adhesive and used it to create the post-it note that is used by the millions each day across the globe!
What does that have to do with camp? We don’t have failures at camp – everyone’s a winner, right?? Wrong!! Camp is one of the best places to fail and it happens every day throughout every summer! Camp provides an unique environment or culture if you will, where campers can try something new for the first time, fail miserably at their first attempts yet continue to receive unconditional support and encouragement from their camp mates and counselors. No one is there laughing at them, giving them a grade or a score on their lack of immediate success or telling them to give up because they’re no good at it!
Archery is an excellent example of the camp success through failure model. Few campers can hit a bulls-eye in their first attempts – some may, but they are usually just lucky and can’t usually repeat their initial success. With the guidance of their activity leaders and camp mates, they are able to examine and identify what they need to change and are soon hitting the target. With a little more practice, guidance & encouragement they are hitting the bulls-eye consistently! And we see this all over camp each and every day ~ campers singing in front of a group, getting up on water-skis, setting up a volleyball, throwing a pot on the wheel… all for the first time!
When campers experience failure in the camp setting, they quickly begin to realize that failure is really just a part of the process of learning and getting better at something. They also see that failing at something is not a blanket statement about them or their abilities and it doesn’t define who they are. In short, failure builds confidence. By being able to pick oneself up and try again, we confirm & increase our own value to ourselves.
Failure also builds moral and performance character in each of us. A recent New York Times article (What If the Secret to Success is Failure?) explores this notion rather well as it examines a couple of elite private schools in New York that as they incorporate effective character development in their programs. If you have a bit of time to explore, click here to read more!
‘Come to camp a failure and leave a success’ is probably not the slogan we will be using any time soon, but camp is and always has been a great place to fail. One of the greatest road blocks to success is the fear of failure. By eliminating that fear, camp makes the sometimes bumpy road to success a lot smoother and whole lot more fun!