Failing…To Get it Right

As a young “buck” right out of college I had the chance to go to a Saturday Night Live (SNL) tapping with some friends. The ticket came complete with an invite to hangout at the cast party afterwards. It was a cool experience and I learned that I was as tall as Timothy Hutton, as we stood next to each other at the party. While Timothy and I did not strike up a conversation ( I figured he was not interested in my stories of working in a boarding school dorm at the time.), it was cool to see how the whole production worked. Live TV is hit or miss, even with those signs that tell the audience to laugh.

SNL has been on the air for 38 years. A remarkable run that has produced some of the greats of comedy. The part that always amazes me about SNL though is how they create more “unfunny” skits than memorable ones. I will freely admit that I do not watch it as often as I once did, and that the only way I see it now is if I tape it on the DVR or watch skits on You Tube. My bedtime is well before 11:30pm on Saturday night. I often wonder: How does SNL stay on when they fail more than they get it right?

“If you are not failing, you are not trying hard enough.” I have heard variations of this quote many times. Failure is a “bad” word in the world of education. The world in which I live. All parties in school are afraid to fail. Nobody wants to receive an F, and that is rightfully so. Yet, failure teaches us so much when we are open to it. It can teach or drive us to be successful. We need to make it safer to fail (or fall). It might sound like an oxymoron, but it is true. Read this great article in The Atlantic, by Jessica Lahey on why we need to let our kids fail. Even SNL has a safety net. People expect imperfection because it is live, on late at night and there is no editing. Nobody is perfect. Right? If SNL just dwelled on failure my guess is they would have been off the air about 36 years ago. Check out these famous “failures” below:


It seems to me that SNL embraces their failed skits and hits the drawing board to “get it right” the next time. A growth mindset that would be. A belief that failure is not fixed on a person for life, rather an opportunity for growth. Just ask the folks above. So to all the folks in the world of education who hopefully have some time on their hands this summer, watch a few episodes (re-runs albeit) of SNL and grab the book, Mindset, by Carol Dweck. Failure always teaches us something. To quote Thomas Edison, “I have not failed, I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” A true growth mindsetter.

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