“Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.” – Henry Ford
SEL Connection: Mark Twain famously quipped that death and taxes are the only things certain in life. We can probably add failure to that short list. It’s not an exaggeration to say that of all philosophical themes, failure is one to which students can relate most. Prevailing wisdom suggests that failure is something to be avoided at all costs. That’s what many students are taught at home and at school. Here we have Henry Ford sharing his perspective on failure and coaxing us to see it in a different light. This is a real opportunity to take common sense wisdom which is rarely questioned and put it to a fresh test to see if it has merit.
(1) Claim: We are prone to think of failure in negative terms and that’s probably because when we fail it means we didn’t accomplish something we set out to do. But as Ford suggests, making mistakes are opportunities to start again with newfound wisdom. We become smarter when we fail, which is an imminently positive way to view the world.
(2) Counterclaim: Yes, failure teaches us great things. But when does failure become the sign that we need to change course and do something different? We only have so much energy to put into the world. If we spend it all committing to tasks for which we are not suited to complete, then that seems like a grand waste of time. If it’s not working, try something else! There is great wisdom in that logic too.
(3) Essential Question: Should constant failure motivate us to try again or convince us to change our plans?