Failure is Part of the Success Equation!

By Jenny Oh.

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In the ever-changing evolving global marketplace, innovation is what sets us apart. Innovation drives growth by identifying unique and efficient ways to meet new challenges. It is through strong leadership that we are motivated and inspired to grow together to tackle these challenges with open arms!

“Innovation, not instant perfection. The key is iteration. Learn enough from your mistakes.  You aren’t perfect every single time. There are missteps along the way. Iterate or reinvent your way out of it.” -Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo!

Networking SessionWhat would you do if you knew that you could not fail?

There is a great TED Talk by Regina Dugan from DARPA and she asks you to ask yourself, “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?”

Proteges share what they would do if they knew they could not fail
Proteges share what they would do if they knew they could not fail

When we removed the possibility of failure, we would be anything and everything.  Protégés and mentors shared so many different dreams and possibilities they would try:

  • Be an astronaut, habituate on the moon
  • Make all cities green
  • Find cures for mental illness
  • Establish World peace

GIT Session – Innovation: Embrace Fear and Learn to Fail

Jenny Oh leads the GIT session on Innovation: Embrace Fear and Learn to Fail
Jenny Oh leads the GIT session on Innovation: Embrace Fear and Learn to Fail

As witnessed during our networking session, we all have so many ambitions, ideas, passions, goals, and dreams.  But why aren’t we pursuing them?  We don’t even attempt to approach our dreams.  Why is that?  During the session, we came up with a good list of reasons why we don’t try to approach our dreams.  Some of the reasons were:

·   We are too young

·   We don’t have all of the knowledge yet

·   The technology is not available

·   It is too expensive

All very good reasons.  But these reasons have always been the case.  We witness people achieving great accomplishments no matter how young or old.  In today’s age, we have more options for funding and collaboration to lessen the burden of sole financing your idea.  Also, innovation means creating a new technology that isn’t available.  So why aren’t we pursuing our ambitions, ideas, passions, goals and dreams?  The number one reason why our dreams die before we even try is because we are afraid.  We fear failure.  How do we succeed without failing?  Is success only meant for the few who are born lucky?

You Choose - Which path is the realistic path to success?
You Choose – Which path is the realistic path to success?

Protégés were asked to examine two different paths to success and to identify the actual path.  Majority of the high school protégés were surprised that in fact, the real path to success involves challenges, difficulties, life’s twists and turns, stumbles and falls.  Many young kids grow up believing that success should be achieved in a single shot.  This is not the mindset we should be teaching our youth.  While we want all of our protégés to succeed, we want them to know that in the real world, success does not come automatically.  We must have the courage to face our fears, the resilience to recover from failures and the ambition to continue towards our goals.

There is a great thought piece by Elizabeth Gerber, McCormick School of Engineering and School of Communication at Northwestern University, and founder of Design for America, that says that schools should be teaching us how to learn from failures:

“We should be teaching our students in STEM subjects: how to fail.  Right now, we do not explicitly teach our students how to fail so that they can get right back up.  That’s in direct conflict with our goal: to prepare students to play competitively upon graduation.  If our students are going to stop deadly pandemics, solve the energy crisis, and cure world hunger and poverty, they will have to be prepared to fail, over and over – and more important, they will need to know how to learn from those failures.”

Schools want to teach us how to fail?!  But will our employers want us to fail?  Surely not…  But what if they do?  Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo!, says the key to innovation is not one shot perfection, but iteration.  “Learn…from your mistakes… [and] iterate quickly.  You aren’t perfect every single time.  There are missteps along the way.  Iterate, or reinvent your way out of it.”  Mayer echoes the sentiment of many other modern companies.

Many of the protégés were surprised by this.  They grow up with the mindset of needing to be perfect.  Perfect to standout against the competition, perfect in order to get into a good school, etc.  But it was quite a revelation for the protégés to learn that schools and employers want us to know how to fail.  With the key word being how.

Earlier in the program, Protégés identified Jennifer Lawrence as their role model.  So we took a lesson on how to fail from Jennifer Lawrence:

Learning How To Fail From Our Role Model, Jennifer Lawrence
Learning How To Fail From Our Role Model, Jennifer Lawrence

All because we make mistakes and fail the first time, does not mean we cannot be successful.  We want you to succeed.  But, if failure is part of the success equation, we have to learn how to fail.

GIT Demo – Robotics

Mary Muldowney Jarratt and The Potomac School Robotics Team
Mary Muldowney Jarratt and The Potomac School Robotics Team

The Potomac School’s Robotics Team and their robotics coach, Mary Muldowney Jarratt from the Children’s Science Center, joined the GIT program for a panel discussion on their experiences as well as providing a robotics demo.

Before we started talking about Robotics, Mary had a massive multi-player thumb wrestling war.This was by far the best ice breaker activity in the history of GIT.Our thumbs actually represented nodes and with the massive number of thumbs among the multi-players represented the various connection points.  Mary had us thinking like a robot!

GIT Talks Moderator, Irene Lane, interviewed Mary and The Potomac School Robotics Team members Seyoung, Emma, Jasmine, Becca, Jessica, and Diya about how they were introduced to robotics, their paths to success, their obstacles and challenges, how they recovered from mistakes and failures, as well as how they see robotics in their future careers.

GIT Talks Moderator, Irene Lane, interviews The Potomac School Robotics Team
GIT Talks Moderator, Irene Lane, interviews The Potomac School Robotics Team

The Potomac School Robotics Team gave an interactive demonstration of their robot.  Our GIT Protégés were very intrigued.

The Potomac School Robotics Team demoing their robot to Girls In Technology Proteges
The Potomac School Robotics Team demoing their robot to Girls In Technology Proteges
Virginia Girls in Technology Mentor Protege Program and The Potomac School Robotics Team
Virginia Girls in Technology Mentor Protege Program and The Potomac School Robotics Team

Mentoring Session – Sharing our Successes and our Failures

Mentors and Proteges during GIT Session #4
Mentors and Proteges during GIT Session #4

Mentors and Protégés shared stories of previous challenges and failures, the lessons they learned, and how they got back on the path to success.  Protégé Daniela shared a story about a failed science projects when she tried to breed baby craw fish, and Protégé Amelia shared how her growth spurt affected her playing soccer, so she had to train herself to aim and kick from a new angle.  Jenny shared that public speaking was not her forte when she started moderating the GIT session, but improved with dedicated practice.

Special Thank You!

GIT Committee: Trish Barber, Jenny Oh, and Irene Lane with Falls Church High School Teacher, Mr. Tra
GIT Committee: Trish Barber, Jenny Oh, and Irene Lane with Falls Church High School Teacher, Mr. Tra

Thank you for visiting us Mr. Dan Tra from Falls Church High School!  Mr. Tra is truly a world class educator.  He is a wonderful example of a mentor and champion for young high school girls in pursuing STEM/STEAM studies.  He is a technology teacher at Falls Church High School and is involved with coaching CyberPatriot and robotics at the school.  He has brought his students to GIT programs over the past several years.  Further, with his help, the female students at Falls Church High School were able to start their own technology club for girls.  I was so honored to have him observe our session so that he can recommend our program to future Falls Church High School students.

One of the reasons that girls shy away from science, technology, engineering, or math fields is because they are often the only females in the classroom or in the company.  Mr. Tra said he finally understood what that felt like for females, when he was the only male in the room at our Girls In Technology Mentor Protege Session.  🙂  We definitely do need to balance the numbers.  Thanks to Mr. Tra, we have many girls who are pursuing computer science from Falls Church High School!

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