This weekend I traveled to Saratoga Springs, NY, where I was lucky enough to be invited to guest speak at a few Skidmore College business classes. It was a great trip. The weather was beautiful and the classes exceeded all expectations. I was particularly impressed by the students and their ambition, intelligence and drive to learn. The whole weekend got me thinking about my college experience and what I learned back then that helps me now in my career.
One of the most important things I learned in college is how to fail. When I say failure – I’m not talking about failure due to lack of effort or failure at a minor/inconsequential task. I’m talking about trying as hard as you can at something important and failing. It’s certainly not a skill that’s emphasized in education – and with all the pressures around maintaining flawless GPAs, some students may do everything in their power to avoid failure. It’s even gotten to the point where students will shop around for the classes they know will be the easiest, just to guarantee they will not fail. This is wrong! College students should not avoid failure – they should embrace it! College is one of the only places where you can fail without having to deal with real repercussions (such as loss of a job or financial security).
A college career without failure is an incomplete experience, because after college (with few exceptions) failure cannot always be avoided. Learning how to respond to failure – and knowing how to turn failure today into a win tomorrow – is something that everyone should experience prior to entering the working world.
The truth is, the best learning experiences are not marked with A’s, they’re marked with F’s.