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The #1 skill your kids need to learn - the ability to fail (then to be resilient and innovate)

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Staff Writer
Academy for Enterprising Girls

When we think about skills and abilities, particularly when it comes to our children, we think of practical things like playing the piano, doing advanced algebra or being able to cook two-minute noodles without burning them. This is all true, but they also need to know some of the skills that are harder to learn via instructions, such as the ability to fail, to be resilient and to be innovative. 

Failing is something we often try to protect our children from, as it can be devastating to them, and devastating for us as parents as a result. But a little disappointment is a good thing, and can be a teaching moment as we help our kids to learn to deal with the disappointment of failing, and how they can bounce back from it so it gets easier for the next time it happens. 

If children aren’t able to fail and learn to bounce back from it, it can have an impact on their ability to be resilient, confident and even lead to a build up of anxiety and fear of failure. It’s not something that should be feared, and any entrepreneur, business leader or sportsperson will tell you that failing is all part of the process.

According to CEO of Future Women, Helen McCabe, failure is ok. “In fact, it’s a good thing!” says McCabe. “The sooner you fail, the sooner you’re successful, and the sooner you take on those learnings.” 

Like many of us, McCabe says this is something she didn’t learn until late in her career. But it’s something that can easily be taught earlier on. 

Grace Wong, CEO of Liven says growing up she thought she was a princess, so when things didn’t go right, she thought, why? 

“Over time I learnt how to be grateful. Since mastering this I have felt even more happy and successful and that actually gets reflected on the business that I’m running.” 

Wong says you shouldn’t worry about things you can’t change, which is really important when building up your resilience.

“Have lots of gratitude and don’t ever blame the surrounding environment. You are the one who makes yourself better.”

For many people, resilience is something that is built up over a long time. It can be easy to compare ourselves to other people, or worry about what others think of us. Teaching resilience in kids is a gradual process that won’t happen overnight, but can happen if we watch out for opportunities to encourage it. 

For many of us, building resilience will be as simple as not giving up on something. If your child knows what they want to do, encourage them to follow it through, and not give up when the going gets tough. They might fail the first time, but the second or third time - or even the tenth time - will see results. 

Mia Freedman, CEO of Mamamia sums it up best when she says success doesn’t teach you anything. It’s failing that does it.

“We have an expression here at Mamamia called flearning. Failing and Learning. That sounds kind of Pollyanna because when you’re failing in those dark times you don’t really feel like there’s a silver lining on that cloud, but you do learn from every mistake you make. 

“The only true teacher is failure. Failure teaches you who you really are.” 

Mia, Grace and Helen are three of the fantastic entrepreneur women who are supporting the Academy for Enterprising Girls. We refer to these women as Girl Founders, as they have achieved so much and we love how much they want to share their experiences and inspire the next generation of leaders.

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