It’s Okay to Fail
Boardgames help us learn to fail.
This post was written by guest contributor Chrissy Wissler.
I don’t know about you, but shooting for perfection was something I’d been taught early—and often—as a kid. Getting perfect scores on tests (rarely), never making a mistake on the softball field or missing a shot on the basketball court (impossible), never being late, never talking out of turn…
Perfect, perfect, perfect.
But something I’ve learned as an adult is that when we fail, when we strive and it doesn’t work out, when we’ve fallen face-down in the mud and aren’t sure we can get back up again—those are the real opportunities. The opportunities to grow, to get better, to learn from our mistakes and try again.
Real bravery is in those moments where, after we’ve fallen, we get back up again.
And guess what? Being creative, thinking outside of the box, trying something new and different, all those will mean moments of failure. Because you can’t always get something right, especially not the first time.
You can’t be afraid to fail.
So much about life and living life, is trying – and failing. Trying again and again, learning and tweaking and growing, and eventually getting it right. (And then you go for the next thing and the whole process repeats.)
Board games are a wonderful way to support this growth in our kids, teaching them that sometimes we succeed and sometimes we fail. Sometimes we make the right choices and sometimes we make mistakes. Board games help failure feel less scary. We learn that failing isn’t the end of the world, and though there might be some big feelings about losing, it’s okay.
It’ll be okay.
(And who am I kidding? This isn’t just about our kids learning, there’s a ton here for us adults to learn, too!)
So let’s say you play a game you’ve never played before and you lose. Big time. Or maybe you decide to try another strategy or tactic than your usual one, but this time the chance you took really didn’t work out for you.
Maybe you’re playing a game like Villainous. Although you’ve played as Captain Hook before and won, you decide to play as Prince John. You have no idea how Prince John plays, the cards in his deck, the strategy needed to win, but you try anyway.
And maybe after that first try you lose (ahem: I certainly did—along with the second time), but instead of tossing your hands up and moving to another character, you look closer at how you played. At the choices you made, both the ones that were right and the ones that were wrong. The mistakes. You look at those moments of failure and you learn from it.
You ask yourself, “What can I do better next time?”
And then the next time comes and you try again.
Maybe you win, maybe you don’t. And just maybe, if you lost, you look again at your choices, your mistakes, your failure, and you try again.
Life is about trying, and it’s very much about failing—and learning from that failure, learning from the mistakes. The ability to stand in those moments, without being afraid of them, without shaming ourselves with negative self-talk, that’s a true gift we can give our kids.
Board games can show our kids how to do this, to support them in their creativity and bravery and curiosity—something each and everyone of us were born with.
This very much reminds me of Sir Ken Robinson and his TedTalk, “Do Schools Kill Creativity”:
“If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.”
If you want to win, if you want to do well, you must be willing to try. Try this tactic, this strategy. Then see what happens. Failure pushes us to think, to be creative in how we play, to watch others and learn from them as well.
What a great muscle, a tool, to be practicing!
“We stigmatize mistakes. We are now running national education systems where mistakes are the worst things you can make. The result is we are educating people out of their creative capabilities.”
Playing board games really is about making mistakes, trying and learning and then trying again. To push ourselves each time, going past our boundaries and limits just a smidgeon, and then again and again.
Our kids might be hearing about this thing called perfection. Even if it’s not directly stated, it’s implied in our education systems, in our society.
Let’s allow board games, and playing board games together with our kids, be a place where it’s safe to make mistakes. To build a community that supports trying new ideas, where creativity itself can be present and flourish. Failing, growing through failure, gaining confidence, and taking chances… it’s all there, even if you can’t quite see it in a pile of board games.
But you know what you can see?
The smiles and the joy on their faces – that you can see.
Chrissy Wissler is a professional writer of fiction, parenting blogs and raising differently-wired kids, and also—a gamer. She runs the Homeschool Board Game Club in Torrance, California, sharing her love of games and supporting kids with the community. If you’d like to learn more, check out: facebook.com/chrissykidsboardgames and ChrissyWissler.com.