Headshot of Covington Doan by Paul Jun

Covington Doan

School is a great place to fail

Failure is an inevitable part of the journey to success.

Michael Jordan famously said,

"I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I've been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."

Most schools punish failure and reward perfection. In high school, some students race to be the valedictorian of their class. It can be and oftentimes is extremely competitive. If a student stumbles or is less than perfect for even a moment, they may be out of the race. It's game over.

The truth is you get a lot of chances to "miss" and fail in school and it's not game over if you choose to play a different game. Every grade level, every class, and every assignment is another opportunity to "play again". You get to change your mind, experiment with different ways of being, and try something different.

There's a fear that if you "quit" and choose to play a different game you will never be great at anything because you lack passion and perseverance. On the contrary, by working through the feelings that come with failure and not knowing the "right" answer, you're demonstrating passion. By choosing to move instead of stagnating or giving up, you're persevering. You are learning and iterating until you find what's right for you.

At Kobe Bryant's funeral, Michael Jordan shared a story about how Kobe used to text him at two o'clock in the morning:

"I remember maybe a couple months ago [Kobe] sends me a text and he said, 'I'm trying to teach my daughter some moves and I don't know what I was thinking or what I was working on, but what were you thinking about as you were growing up trying to work on your moves?'"

I said, "What age?"

He says, "Twelve."

I said, "At twelve, I was trying to play baseball."

Failure is part of the game. School is a great place to start playing.