The Only Thing We Have to Fear is Fear (of Failure) Itself

Image by Vancouver Film School*

The eighth annual Teens and Entrepreneurship Survey, conducted in August 2010 by Junior Achievement (JA), an organization that prepares students for success in the global economy, reveals contemporary teenagers’ concerns about their futures. According to a press release, out of 1,000 respondents between the ages of 12 and 17, 51% want to eventually start their own business, but 74% see risk and failure as the biggest obstacles in their path. An overwhelming 84% of young people believe business initiative should be taught in school, and 34% identify imagination and creativity as the most important assets for marketplace achievement. With regard to the aforementioned anxiety felt by aspiring entrepreneurs, JA USA President and CEO Jack E. Kosakowski says, “[T]he time is now to teach them those essential skills to overcome that fear.” One way of addressing this need is to encourage students to re-engineer their conception of failure by teaching them “failing well”—that is, preparing them to learn from failure rather than feel ashamed of it and avoid it at all costs. Educators should work to foster this ability, an essential one for all potential innovators. Overall, the Teens and Entrepreneurship Survey shows that American kids are ambitious, aware of imagination’s economic power, and intent on having schools offer them knowledge that will fuel their professional careers. By “[b]ringing the concepts of entrepreneurship and innovation into the classroom,” JA is responding to that demand—but others must join in the effort.

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