Our greatest involvement in our children's public schools came during the heyday of the self-esteem movement, and I recall the frustrations of being a lone voice crying out that easy success is as much an inhibitor of learning as repeated failure. Those who sail through their early educational encounters with too much ease are often surpassed by their supposedly less able compatriots later in life, because they've missed the important lessons taught by failure.
With a hat top to Free-Range Kids, here's a Wall Street Journal article on why that college rejection letter, that teacher's put-down, and even our own weaknesses can be agents that propel us to success.
Warren Buffett was devastated when Harvard Business School rejected his application. Buoyed by his father's "unconditional love...an unconditional belief in me," he looked for Plan B, squeaked in under Columbia University's application deadline, and was accepted, later donating some twelve million dollars to the institution whose investment in Buffett turned out to be as savvy as Buffett himself.
"The truth is, everything that has happened in my life...that I thought was a crushing event at the time, has turned out for the better," Mr. Buffett says.
Columbia's current president, Lee Bollinger, grew up in a small town with limited educational opportunities. He, too, was rejected by Harvard, and the shock taught him to take responsibility for his own education, to realize that "it was up to him alone to define his talents and potential."
His advice: Don't let rejections control your life. To "allow other people's assessment of you to determine your own self-assessment is a very big mistake," says Mr. Bollinger, a First Amendment author and scholar. "The question really is, who at the end of the day is going to make the determination about what your talents are, and what your interests are? That has to be you."
Success has many lessons to teach, too, and frankly I prefer that classroom. But for grit, determination, perseverance, responsibility, and hard work, failure may be the better teacher.