A few weeks ago, the Israeli Spacecraft, Beresheet, malfunctioned while attempting to soft-land on the moon’s surface. This would have made Israel the 4th country to soft-land on the moon. With the world watching, and moments to go until the landing, the braking system failed and years worth of work crashed. Instead of the developers fingering each other, finding where the blame laid, or giving up all hope – they started planning the next spacecraft and learning what they could do next time to make the landing successful.
One of the hardest life-skills to teach is that failure is ok. Most of us learned it in our formative years from our attentive parents. Starting from the time we learned to walk, our parents encouraged us to “brush yourself off and try again”. When our projects fell apart our parents helped glue it back together and when we brought home poor grades they helped us study for the next test. But how do you teach teens who were not raised on that foundation that failure is normal, that failure is part of learning and that failing is a key part of succeeding? Many of our teens have been taught to give up. Their parents were not around to encourage them to keep trying, and their schools did not have the resources needed to focus on each student. They have accepted that they are failures and have given up trying. They have left their schools, walked away from the normative and surrounded themselves with others who also have accepted failure and assume they will never amount to much.
It is our job to teach our teens that failing should not mean it’s time to pack up, crawl into your corner and give up. In order to lead successful lives, we need to show them that failure is an important part of any learning process, and that most people do not “get it right” on the first try. When a new teen starts at Susan’s House, they are overwhelmed by the level of the products we are displaying. They insist that they are not artists and that they could never produce what we make. With a lot of patience and understanding our talented staff members show them step-by-step how to create each piece. The real work comes in when the outcome is less than desired, and the staff members have to very carefully explain where the mistakes were made and how to correct them next time. The first big breakthrough for our teens comes when a product they helped create is put out on display and sold. Once they see their hard work bear fruit we can start to talk to them about their futures, about returning to school, about the importance of pushing through and to “brush yourself off and try again”.