Exploring and Failing Without Fear
As well as being visionary, collaborative, determined and reflective, innovators are courageous. We define courage as being willing to share your creative thoughts, stretching yourself to try new things and embracing challenges.
Indeed, being willing to fail, even publicly, is essential for innovation—and kids are very afraid of it. It seems that children have become even more averse to “being bad at something” or “getting the wrong answer” than they were when I started Galileo 13 years ago. I believe this is the result of the testing regimen in our schools and the increased intensity surrounding performance in all areas that we pass on to our children.
But it is possible to create an environment that makes children more comfortable expressing themselves, trying new things and using failure to further a project. I want to pass on a few ideas that have worked in creating this type of environment at Galileo, adapted for home use:
- See potential in your kids that they may not see in themselves: Some roles, projects or positions might feel out of reach to your children. By encouraging them to embrace challenges and accept failure as part of the process, they can often do much more than they think they can.
- Identify the long-term reward: If our work is tied to a higher purpose, we are more willing to do something that feels scary. Why learn to play piano, draw or do multiplication? Kids are limited in their ability to see the future. Help them create a vision.
- Identify the actual risk of the activity, and put it in perspective: When your kids seem afraid of doing something, ask them, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” Follow that up with, “And if that happened, what would happen next?” Odds are, the actual risks are minimal and not that scary after all.
- Create small victories: Help your child break down big or intimidating projects into small victories that build confidence—and skills.
- Allow time for multiple iterations: At Galileo we design our sessions so that there is time to create something, test it and then recreate it based on what was learned the first time. When kids experience situations in which failure provides feedback for improvement the next time around, they start to get more comfortable with failure.
- Recognition for risks: When you see your kids do something courageous, give them specific recognition for it. Instead of focusing on the results, focus on the courage it took to try something new or to take on a challenge. In Galileo classrooms we have a recognition wall where we celebrate “epic fails” and “marvelous mistakes.” When those around you encourage you to take risks, you do it more.
- Show them their progress: We all forget how far we’ve come. Show your kids video of an early piano recital and they won’t believe how much they’ve progressed.
- Be brave yourself: Setting a courageous example is the most powerful thing you can do. Don’t be afraid to try something new in front of your kids. They think you're great at everything—show them what you're like as a beginner.
Courage isn't about staring down danger or taking crazy risks. It's simply about the opportunity to explore, share, try—and fail. Who knows what your kids will be able to create when they're free from the fear of getting it wrong?
Founder & CEO