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The secret to success: Fail a little.

Success is more than winning or achieving. Look at Thoreau's life.

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I want this new school year to be a good one for my students as they learn about everything from calculus to Shakespeare to failure.

That's right. Failure.

We all need to fail a little. In fact, the secret of success, might just be that. Consider the path of Henry David Thoreau.

By many accounts, Thoreau was a failure. Folks thought he should have been a civic leader. He could have been a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher. He might even have made congressman or governor.

Instead, the Harvard man seemed to spend most of his time loafing in the woods near his hometown over near Walden Pond. Everyone just scratched their heads and wondered why such a promising young fellow wasn't a "success."

I'm not suggesting that my students drop classes for the woods, but it's important to remember that ideas on success vary, even in these enlightened times.

Some measure success by the size of the car he or she drives, others point to the width of their wallet or the number of bathrooms in their house.

The trouble is, by that way of thinking, America becomes the land of numbers and the higher the number, the greater the success.

Baseball's numbers help us to remember that frequent failure can be considered a success. Players who routinely fail to get a hit 7 out of every 10 at-bats are considered All-Stars. But they are really stars because they learn from their mistakes.

The lessons of failure are an important part of the curriculum of success. We learn from them. They push us to do better; they teach us humility.

As teacher, I expect students to revise their work, to build on the "failure" of the first draft to achieve clarity and insight in the final draft. That's a good model for most things in life.

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