Legal educators and law students can borrow some ideas about failure from the corporate world. In a recent article on Forbes.com, Ekaterina Walter examines the nature of “failure.” Failure is a delay, not a definition. In many ways, each failure is a unique opportunity to learn – what didn’t work?
In academic success, I coached many a student grappling with “failing” – failing a test, an important paper, an entire course, failing out of law school, or failing the bar exam. I worked on validating the feelings of frustration, sadness, and grieving in order to transition to the “what can you learn from this” opportunity. Some students couldn’t, or didn’t want to, hear me.
But many students, brave students, recognized the counter-intuitive value in failure, that failing is not defeat, but merely a detour, that sometimes students need to take the long way around to truly learn from trying, not succeeding, and trying again.
For the students who have recently learned that they have not been successful YET on the bar exam, don’t despair. Mourn your loss, but don’t accept defeat.
You haven’t failed. You’ve been given an amazing opportunity to learn from your mistakes. Don’t blow it. Sometimes you have to fail your way to amazing things.