The following article is from an 8th grader at CAPS, Claira Church. She presented this as her 8th grade speech and wishes to share this message with the community.
In sixth grade, we had a big assignment called an “art talk.” The idea was that you would have a song, a piece of writing, and a visual art piece. They were all supposed to fit together under one theme, a theme you ideally picked beforehand. You would then present it in an interesting way to the class. We had weeks to complete it. I tried to do it the night before I was due to present it. I, understandably, failed completely, in an incredibly horrible, humiliating way.
I have learned from this failure. Since then, I have not written a speech, or any other form of assignment to be delivered in front of people, the night before it was due. This has greatly improved the quality of my presentations. Now here’s the question: if no other speech I have delivered since then has been truly terrible, then the experience of delivering that one bad speech, and all the stress and humiliation with it, worth it? I honestly think it was. After all, it’s much better to have an assignment really badly done in Middle School, where consequences are minimal and parents get mildly annoyed, than in High School, when it could determine what college you get into, and where your parents can get seriously get mad at you. If I never failed so badly on that one art talk, I would probably still be getting bad scores consistently. You could say, then, that if what you learn from your failures is useful, and you learn something, than they might, in the big picture, truly be successes.
A big mistake people make is to never take risks and never allow themselves to fail on anything, so consequently they never go anywhere with their lives. On the opposite end, some middle schoolers abuse the whole “learn from your failures” thing and just let themselves fail on everything and say they learned from it. Say you wrote a paper for a project, and it was going well. You had plenty of time, but you didn’t workshop it before you turned it in. You get a really bad score, put the paper away, and never look at it again. The next time you write a paper, you do exactly the same thing, never having analyzed what went wrong with your paper. This is where the whole “learning” part of it comes in. If you never learn anything from your failures, then they are just mistakes that you could have prevented. When you learn from your failures, ideally you wouldn’t fail like that again, especially in an environment where it will really matters.
There are other places that learning from your failures is important. In many kinds of visual art, for example, the only way to really learn how to get better is to fail over and over and over again. Let me give you a scenario. When throwing pottery, no one’s first piece will be their best. Or anywhere close to their best. The first pot I threw on a wheel was small, stubby, and had walls at least a half inch thick. In pottery, half inch thick walls on a piece two inches tall is generally considered bad, especially if you have any sense of proportion. Even before I threw it, I knew that it would be terrible. And even now, my feeble attempts at throwing something over a pound and a half generally implode. Or collapse. Or just fail in general. But what I have become adept at making are really small things, like espresso mugs or little bowls. And the only reason I can make those pieces worth keeping are because I took the leap and allowed myself to fail on that first misshapen relatively bowl-like thing. This is a different way of putting it, but when throwing pottery, you also fail and learn from it. But instead of the fast change of giving a humiliating speech, throwing pottery takes time, and chances are you’ll throw tons of failed pots before you make something beautiful. But that’s no reason to give up and not try in the first place. Chances are every pot you make, at least while you’re learning, will be better than the last.
In life, you will definitely fail, possibly over and over again. But you have to make the best of it, and learn from it, otherwise your life will end up a wet lump of clay on a hypothetical wheel, spinning but never taking shape. This world is a writhing, bickering, noise-making place, spinning like a pottery wheel, so it’s comforting to know that there have been much more significant failures that you will probably never even have the opportunity to get close to. So my advice is to not be afraid to make mistakes, and to realize that it’s what you do with your mistakes that truly defines them as successes or failures. And it’s what you do with your failures that truly defines you.