I Hope You Fail This Year. Here’s Why…


You read that right. I hope you fail this year. And no, all the time up in the air on planes hasn’t finally gotten to me. I’ve got a good reason.

The reason I hope you fail is because as leaders that is how we become better. By striving and failing to arrive at our perceived ideals, we end up becoming an even better version of ourselves than we would if we only ever succeeded.

When I went to undergrad at Santa Clara University, there was one business strategy that I remember my marketing professor teaching us and I think it might apply to you right now:

FAIL FAST

I had to live by these words this summer when I had to exit a bad partnership deal which cost our company money, time, and future opportunities. On reflection, it’s a good thing it failed as quickly as it did – if I stayed in longer, I would have lost even more money, time, and opportunities!

Here you are 2 months into your school year. You had plans. You set programs in place. You made goals and hopes for your students and staff. If you haven’t already reached those marks, there’s a question you need to ask yourself: should I fail fast or march on?

To know for sure, I suggest the following 3 question litmus test.


#1 – Are your team members and students responding to your plan?

If your students and staff aren’t buying it by now, it’s time to switch gears. There’s nothing worse than a plan turning out to be the next New Coke or Apple Newton…remember them? Blips on the radar for their parent companies. They seemed like colossal failures at the time, but both companies dropped them and pushed forward. If a plan is failing and there’s no hope for it, make a new plan. It’s okay to try again!

#2 – Is it causing you frustration and aggravation?

You got into education because you love the work. This is a calling, not a job. If you’re aggravated to the point where you’re losing sleep or feeling stressed out, let your voice be heard. You probably aren’t the only one feeling this way. Plus, you don’t deserve to feel that way. Let me repeat that: if you’re feeling stressed out and miserable, YOU DON’T DESERVE TO FEEL THAT WAY. You deserve to feel happy, productive, empowered, connected, and joyful. Working in education is hard, but if it isn’t also rewarding, then something is wrong. Start a dialogue with the people you work with. Come up with a plan together. Make a change.

#3 – Is your plan actually affecting your school’s culture the way you thought it would?

Look at your plan and ask yourself, where will this put us in December? Where will we be in April? How will we feel about this in June? If you don’t think the current strategy is going to get you to where your school needs to be, then there is nothing wrong with changing your plan. Maybe it’s time to evolve your idea into something better, revert back to old practices that were working before, or head back to the drawing board to come up with something new.

Bottom-line, you, your staff, and your students deserve to have an amazing school year. And FAILING FAST might be the path you need to take to get there.

If you want to talk further with your staff and students about this concept CLICK HERE to read Sarah Hayden’s latest TEEN TRUTH blog on growth mindset. She also offers an awesome staff activity for you to download.

If you have questions about your school culture or want to bounce ideas off me, please reach out. I’m on the road every week from now until Thanksgiving, but I have this handy little doo-dad that Steve Jobs left us, and will respond to you as quickly as possible.

JC Pohl, LMFT-A
President & CEO, TEEN TRUTH

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How do you recognize a student leader? 

Is it by which conferences they’re invited to?

What t-shirt they wear?

Which elections they’ve won?

Or is student leadership something less easily defined?

At TEEN TRUTH, we help educators redefine student leadership. Student council reps and honors society students are often thrust into the leadership spotlight, but what about that “gang member” on your campus? Could he be leader too? That “mean girl?” She leads every day…what if it were in a productive direction? Or how about that “outcast?” Could that unique voice become one that inspires and motivates others?

Leadership summits are a great way to pull diverse groups of student leaders together, but as I travel the country I find that few schools host annual or semi-annual leadership summits, and those that do only host workshops for students in traditional leadership roles.

By including a diverse group of leaders in our summits, we recognize the leadership potential in a wide array of students, and ignite conversations around social-emotional issues. Students are opened up to the pain and pressures that others face. Strangers soon realize they have more in common than they imagined. School culture efforts are broadened beyond the narrow landscape that traditional leadership programs touch.

The next time you look to recognize leadership, ask yourself, “Do I have leaders from each group in the room? What if I made a seat available for them?” It could be powerful to open up a chair in your summits or weekly student leadership meetings to those non-traditional leaders.

Different voices in the room add depth to your program and your efforts. You might even find that you have a larger buy-in across campus when you run your activities, because a cross-section of credible leaders helped develop the ideas.

To learn more about how to produce leadership summits that work, read my blog at https://teentruth.net/want-leadership-summits-work/ 

JC Pohl, LMFT-A
President & CEO, TEEN TRUTH

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