Famous Failures: Teaching Our Kids About Reframing Failure

Life got you down? Have you lost your job, ended a relationship, or recently ‘failed’ at something? Have your kids faced failures yet?

It’s time to shift your perspective. After all, some of the world’s most successful people were failures.

From Michael Jordan, to Steve Jobs, to Oprah Winfrey, take a look at this inspirational lineup of ‘famous failures.’


While their initial efforts were unsuccessful, as the saying goes, “If you’ve never failed, you’ve never tried anything new.”

Michael Jordan – one of the greatest basketball players of all time – didn’t throw in the towel after not making the team.

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career,” Jordan has famously said. “I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 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.”

Oprah Winfrey, who was born into poverty and sexually abused as a child, has become one of the most successful women ever.

“Think like a queen,” Winfrey said. “A queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another steppingstone to greatness.”

Although Steve Jobs faced hardship early in his career, he went on to create Apple Inc.

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life,” Jobs said. “Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.”

J.K. Rowling, the author the the Harry Potter series, has faced her fair share of failure.

“Failure. Failure is so important — it doesn’t get spoken about enough,” said Rowling. “We speak about success all the time, but, you know, I do not know any — I haven’t met — and I’ve been so fortunate and met extraordinary people through Harry Potter, and not one of them didn’t have their failure — more than one failure. And it’s the ability to resist failure, in many ways, or use failure that often leads to the greatest success, isn’t it? So, yeah. Failure. I’ve often met people who – who are terrified, you know, in a straight jacket of their own making because they’d rather do anything than fail. They don’t want to try for fear of failing. Well that’s the rock-bottom thing. Rock-bottom wasn’t fun — at all. I’m not going to romanticize rock-bottom, but it was liberating. What did I have to lose?”

All of us, famous or not, have failed at some point in our lives. Whether we received failing grades in college, didn’t get hired for the ‘perfect’ job, or weren’t able to make a relationship work, we’ve all faced hard times. But most successful people will tell you that when one door closes, another opens.

As parents, we have the opportunity to teach these important lessons to our kids. Failure is a part of life, and those who can find the silver lining and create something even better than originally planned are the true winners.

Here’s a few lessons to teach our kids when they face failure:

  • Tell your kids that everyone faces failure — it’s just a part of life.
  • Teach your kids that failure is not a bad thing, rather it’s a step toward reaching their goals.
  • Failure is a good reminder never to take anything personally. Teach your child to separate themselves from the setback.
  • Teach your kids to learn from their failures. Perhaps this is a good opportunity to practice/study more.
  • Support your kids’ efforts and give them a break. Don’t push your kids toward a goal that is only causing them stress. Ask yourself: Is this my dream, or my kids’ dream?
  • Although it’s hard, try not to prevent your kids from failing. In the long run, you’re doing them a disservice if you’re always protecting them from any kind of disappointment.
  • Learn to laugh at life. When facing hard times, laughter really is the best medicine.

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