Education Freedom Manifesto – Section 7: Failure, Creativity, and Play

This is the eighth post in a series comprising my Education Freedom Manifesto (full PDF Download). For part seven in this series, click here.

Education Freedom Manifesto

Section 7

Failure, Creativity, and Play

Aim for success, not perfection.
Never give up your right to be wrong, because then you will lose the ability
to learn new things and move forward with your life.
Remember that fear always lurks behind perfectionism.
David M. Burns

Conquering Failure

A good education is not so much one which prepares a man
to succeed in the world, as one which enables him to sustain a failure.
Bernard Iddings Bell

Failure is the best learning tool we have. Do not fear it. Analyze it. Conquer it. Conquering failure leads to challenge-seeking activities and self-confidence. Fear of failure leads to risk-averse activities and learned helplessness and dependence. There are important lessons that can only be learned by failing and then trying again.

There are some significant misunderstandings about failure.
A common one, similar to one we seem to have about death, is that if you don’t plan for it, it won’t happen.
All of us fail. Successful people fail often, and, worth noting, learn more from that failure than everyone else.
Seth Godin

Trying to avoid mistakes by letting others make all of your decisions for you only results in you making their mistakes instead of your own.

It is impossible to live without failing at something,
unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.
J.K. Rowling

Harnessing Creativity

Reward excellent failures. Punish mediocre successes.
Tom Peters

Creativity is coming up with new ideas that have value. If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original. Freedom to make mistakes and benefit from them is the basis of intellectual growth. When people are stigmatized for making mistakes, innovation ceases.

Embracing Play

Combinatory play seems to be the essential feature in productive thought.
Albert Einstein

Our minds are much more powerful when discovering than memorizing,
not least of all because discovering is more fun.
John Holt

Boredom is the brain casting about for new information.
It is the feeling you get when there are no new patterns to absorb.
Ralph Koster

Whenever possible, learning should be playful. It is more fun that way, but we also remember the experience more clearly. When problems become puzzles, work becomes play. People should experience themselves as triumphant problem solvers. This exhilaration is what makes many games compelling. Like game players, students should go on to the next level only after mastering the previous one, taking as long as they need to solve each problem, and staying with it as long as they like. Everyone should develop a deep internal realization that you can figure things out by fooling around.

You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.

All good gameplay is hard work. It’s hard work that we enjoy and choose for ourselves.
And when we do hard work that we care about, we are priming our minds for happiness.
Jane McGonigal

Play for play’s sake is often seen as a waste of time, but it is an essential part of being creative, and even productive. All work and no play doesn’t just make Jack a dull boy, it impedes his brain development at any age. If you aren’t having fun along the way, you’re doing it wrong.

Play is not just preparation for a future adult life.
It has a biological place, just like nutrition, sleep, and dreams do.
It’s hugely important in learning and in crafting the brain.
Dr. Stuart Brown

Games, learning, and life are all a delicate balance between boredom and frustration. Learn to navigate the fun space between the two.

There is a big misconception about games: that they’re a waste of time. But 10 years of
scientific research show that playing games is actually the most productive thing we can do.
More productive than most of what we spend time doing at work or school.
Jane McGonigal

Next in this series: Section 8: Money, Business, Success, and Happiness