Friday, August 17, 2012

What Would You Attempt To Do If You Knew You Could Not Fail?

(I just posted this on my Algebra Class Blog and sent an email to the parents of my incoming students suggesting they read the post and watch the video with their student. Thought I'd share it here as well.)

While this is not an "assignment," I really encourage you to take the time to watch this TED Talk by Regina Dugan (about 19 minutes, with another 5 of Q & A afterward). At the time she gave this talk, Dugan was the director of DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. I was lucky enough to see this talk when she gave it, and I think it's well worth your time. Please watch the embedded video, then I'll share just a few thoughts below it.

The title of this blog post echoes the really important - and empowering - question she asks, "What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail." I think it's important to note that she doesn't say you won't fail at some things, in fact she acknowledges that failure is a huge part of any ultimate success. She argues that it's not failure that's the problem, but our fear of failure that prevents us from attempting "great things."

As you begin this class and, for most of you, your high school careers, I want you to try great things, and not let fear hold you back. As Regina Dugan says,
So who are these scientists and engineers at a magical place called DARPA? They are nerds, and they are heroes among us. They challenge existing perspectives at the edges of science and under the most demanding of conditions. They remind us that we can change the world if we defy the impossible and we refuse to fear failure. They remind us that we all have nerd power. Sometimes we just forget.
You see, there was a time when you weren't afraid of failure, when you were a great artist or a great dancer and you could sing, you were good at math, you could build things, you were an astronaut, an adventurer, Jacques Cousteau, you could jump higher, run faster, kick harder than anyone. You believed in impossible things and you were fearless. You were totally and completely in touch with your inner superhero. Scientists and engineers can indeed change the world. So can you. You were born to. So go ahead, ask yourself, what would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?
I want you to defy the impossible and refuse to fear failure. I want you to get in touch with your inner superhero and change the world. You were born to.

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