Flip the Script: Celebrating Failure Leads to Success

Everyone makes mistakes and fails. The important thing is not that you succeed or win. It is that you keep trying and working towards your goals.

Everyone makes mistakes and fails. Even so, many people have such a fear of failing that they are unwilling to step out and try something new. It all comes down to how we look at failure.

Famous Failures

Many of the world’s largest accomplishments come after a mountain of failures. You can find people throughout history who overcame setbacks to reach their goals. Here are some people you may have heard of:

Abraham Lincoln

Born in 1809, Abraham Lincoln is famously known for being the 16th President of the United States. He was a champion of equal rights, and he blazed a trail toward the freedom of slaves in America. But Lincoln didn’t start out as a success story. He failed numerous times before attaining the highest office in the land.

In 1832, when he was 23 years old, Lincoln lost his job. At the same time, he also lost his bid for State Legislature. Three years later, he lost his bid to become Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives.

In 1848, at 39 years old, Lincoln also failed in his bid to become Commissioner of the General Land Office in D.C. Ten years after that, at 49 years old, he was defeated in his quest to become a U.S. Senator. Of course, through all the personal, business, and political failures, Lincoln didn’t give up.

In 1846, Lincoln was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he drafted a bill to abolish slavery. In 1861, at the age of 52, he secured the office of President of the United States and has since become one of the most famous failures to ever hold office in the United States.

J.K. Rowling

J.K. Rowling is the author of the wildly-popular Harry Potter book series. Born in 1965, she had a difficult and oftentimes-strained relationship with her father and dealt with the illness of her mother.

In 1990, at 25 years old, while on a 4-hour-delayed train, the idea of a young wizard popped into her mind. It took five years to finish the manuscript for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. She located an agent, but after one year of trying to get it published, all 12 major publishing houses had rejected her book.

In 1997, seven years after the initial idea for the young wizard, the first Harry Potter book was published. By 2004, Rowling had become the first author to become a billionaire through book writing.

Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison is an American inventor and entrepreneur born in 1847. When Edison was 31 years old, he began working on an incandescent lightbulb that would be both long-lasting and highly efficient by not drawing too much energy to operate.

Thomas Edison went through thousands of iterations to make this dream a reality. In fact, he failed over 10,000 times trying to invent the commercially-viable electric bulb. At one point, when asked by a reporter whether he felt like a failure after so many failed attempts. He said, “I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.”

Edison had a huge impact on society, holding 1,093 patents to his name at the time of his death. His work in a number of fields created the basis for much of the technologies that we enjoy today. However, like anyone else, he suffered through failure numerous time, but where others quit, he persisted.

Easy as PIE!

Teaching children about learning from their mistakes can be as easy as PIE! Discuss this acronym with your students.

P – Put Yourself Out There

  • What does it mean to “put yourself out there?”
  • What are some examples of times when you have put yourself out there? Was it trying out for a sports team? Singing in front of your friends? Training for a race?

I – Ignore the Negative Self-Talk

  • What is self-talk?
  • What are some examples of negative self-talk?
  • How can you rephrase those negative thoughts into positive self-talk?
  • Give some examples of negative and positive self-talk regarding the examples discussed in “P-Put Yourself Out There,” above.

E – Enjoy the Ride

  • How might you feel when you accept failure as part of the process?
  • What does it feel like to give yourself the freedom to make mistakes?
  • What are some ways that you can enjoy the ride?


After discussing PIE, you can follow up with this FREE FAILURE PIE ACTIVITY. Have the students decorate their own PIEs (see the linked worksheet). They can decorate their pies with their own “toppings” (aka their failures, ways they can to put themselves out there, encouraging phrases, and positive feelings from enjoying the ride).

The Importance of Having a Growth Mindset

Having a growth mindset, where you don’t hide from your mistakes, but instead see those failings as an opportunity to learn and grow, is imperative to be successful. No one amounts to anything without hard work and learning from their mistakes. Having a growth mindset will transform how you face new challenges in the future.

Written by Andrea Burns.

Sign up for our Newsletter

The semi-monthly eNewsletter features:

  • New releases, classroom activities, K-12 resources
  • Subscriber discounts and special offers
  • Relevant reads from education experts and authors
  • Plus in the welcome series of emails you will get a 20% off Promo Code to use in our online bookstore

Connect with us online

Featured Blogs

Book About Growth Mindset

Cookie icon

Please note that we use cookies necessary for the functioning of our website and to optimize performance. To learn more about our cookies and how we use them, please read our Privacy Policy.