Edwards talks failure with great success


Photo by Eli Hausman

Story by Kate Carroll, Editor-In-Chief

When science teacher Bryce Edwards was about six years old, his uncle decided that it was time for him to ride a bike.

“I’d been using training wheels for a while now, a few months, so I was feeling pretty good and I knew what I was doing,” Edwards said. “I was confident that I was going to eat dirt.”

He prepared for the ride, and begged his uncle not to let go of his bike handlebars.

“When he inevitable betrayed me, I sailed across the asphalt, I was flying,” Edwards said. “For a moment, everything was amazing, and then I hit a bush.”

He recovered, suffering a scraped knee, but the incident left Edwards so scared of falling that he did not get back on a bike until he was 13 years old.

This is the story that Edwards began his TED talk with at East Meck’s annual TEDx event. He spoke on how failure is the key to success.

“Something that I’ve thought about a lot and I’ve kind of been considering for a long time, is the idea that kids are constantly in fear of failure when they really shouldn’t be,” Edwards said. “Because failure is how you learn.”

During his talk, Edwards broke failure down into two categories, labelling the first type as ‘trial-and-error’ failures. These are everyday failures encountered at school, work and day-to-day life.

“You make a mistake, you learn from it and you move forward,” Edwards said. “And if you continue to make those mistakes, you continue to learn from them and you continue to move forward, and eventually, you won’t make those mistakes anymore. You learn.”

The problem that Edwards addressed with this is that although these failures provide the opportunity to learn and grow, there is still an intense fear surrounding them.

“I see kids have such deep fear of failing a test that they don’t even try. I have asked a student ‘why didn’t you do the questions on this test?’ and he said ‘I didn’t want to fail.’”

Edwards continued in his talk and went on to attribute this fear to his second category of failure.

“I think the reason that we have this deep deep fear of these small trial-and-error things is because of the other type of failure, what I call permanent consequence. These are the ones that are real,” Edwards said.

These ‘permanent consequence’ failures as ones that cannot be learned from and affect someone for the rest of their life. He explained that with these failures, people fear that there is no coming back, and this fear bleeds into people’s everyday lives, but with this fear, it is harder to succeed.

“To understand success, you have to understand failure,” Edwards said.

Following Edwards’ talk, many students were both receptive and appreciative about what he had to say.

“I had one student come up to me and tell me: ‘I really needed to hear that right now. I’ve been super stressed out about a lot of things, and you just made me realize that it’s not as big of a deal as I thought,’” Edwards said.

With his TED talk and everyday teaching, Edwards hopes to convey the message that failure and success are not independent.

“I really just wanted to address it,” Edwards said. “And address it to an audience that I felt needed to hear it.”