Everyone wants to teach their children to be successful no matter what. The problem is knowing how to go about it.
Do you make life easier for them so they can focus on personal development? Do you teach them to win no matter what? Or do you tell them that everyone is a winner?
All of those options might reflect your love for your child, but they will arguably make them worse off or weaker because they neglect one key issue: failure. So how do you teach a child to succeed by expecting and learning from failure?
Rather than ask them, “How was your day?” or “What did you learn at school?” ask them “What did you fail at today?”
That’s the question that self-made billionaire Sara Blakely attributes to her success today, she told an audience at a recent Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship event in New York.
“My dad used to ask my brother and me at the dinner table what we had failed at that week.
“I can remember coming home from school and saying, ‘Dad, I tried out for this and I was horrible!’ and he would high-five me and say, ‘Way to go!’ If I didn’t have something that I had failed at, he actually would be disappointed.”
In her mid-twenties, Blakely was selling fax machines door-to-door in Florida and Georgia before she thought of a way to innovate women’s pantyhose. Her company, Spanx, was founded in 2000 using her entire life savings of $5,000 and her design for seamless-toed pantyhose which she later patented herself. Blakely had never taken a business class before in her life. By 2012, Blakely was named by Forbes as the youngest self-made female billionaire in the world — today, the 44-year-old entrepreneur has a net worth of over $1 billion.
If it wasn’t for her unique mindset on failure, she may have never taken that leap of faith with her entire life savings and a simple idea.
“My dad always encouraged me to fail, and because of this, he gave me the gift of retraining my thinking about failure.”
Every successful entrepreneur knows to expect failure. They expect to fail hundreds of times before they become successful, but when you dream big, “You only have to to be right once!” according to billionaire investor Mark Cuban.
If you only ever strive to win, you don’t learn anything, and that’s why failure is far more valuable than victory when you are still young. Knowing how to move past each failure and learn from your mistakes prepares you to never fear taking every opportunity you can. The more failures a person experiences, the more they learn and so increases their chances of succeeding the next time increases.
“Failure for me became about not trying, instead of the outcome […] A lot of entrepreneurs are held back from the fear of failure, so that lesson from my dad was a real gift.”
Teach your kids to never fear the unknown and to take every opportunity they can to learn. Never fearing failure is the mindset that will set them up for success later on. “What you don’t know can become your greatest asset if you let it,” Blakely says.