Treat failure as a learning experience

I share Mr Dennis Chan Hoi Yim's concerns over the way employers seem to still value a record of consistent academic achievement, which leads to students avoiding risks (Don't judge job candidates by past failures; Jan 4).

Stanford University Professor of Psychology Carol Dweck in her book Mindset describes how the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) rejected candidates who had records comprised only of success.

Instead, Nasa recruited astronauts that had experienced significant failures and bounced back from them.

The rationale for this seemingly counter-intuitive approach becomes clear when you consider how an astronaut in space could be hundreds or thousands of kilometres from any help.

Should a problem arise, how would a person who had never known adversity handle the situation?

Nasa cannot afford to have an astronaut crack under pressure out in space.

We have collectively created, to our detriment, the cult of the person who has never failed. Yet, we know that nobody goes through life without experiencing failure.

It is how a person recovers from failure that is more important than the failure itself. It is time we rethink some of the criteria we use to assess people.

Soh Gim Chuan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 11, 2019, with the headline 'Treat failure as a learning experience'. Print Edition | Subscribe