The Power of Failure, Shannon Finning, Student Affairs


I believe in the positively transformational power of failure. I have learned more from the failures in my life – both professional and personal – than I have learned from the successes, even when taken in aggregate. As a mother, I fail on a daily basis – feel free to ask my 6 year old son James about my failures when you meet him, he will be delighted to share them with you. I also fail, albeit less frequently, as an educator, a wife, a daughter, a friend and a colleague.

I believe failure, as a word, is often misinterpreted and maligned. Failure can be scary, demotivating, and anxiety and stress provoking but if you think back to your childhood, at some point you did not associate failure with negative emotions and experiences. Think of how many times you tried and failed in learning to crawl, to walk, to ride a bike, to speak a language, and/or to learn math. Failure was, and can again be, our greatest teacher. Imagine if you had stopped in your tracks during any of those moments and stopped trying – where would you be today? The same sentiment can be applied to opportunities and challenges you may face as you begin your career at UMassD.

I believe failure is integral to the cycle of learning and growth. As you begin your UMassD journey, this is the time to try a program of study, a new activity, a new job, a new relationship. If you experience a failure in any of these or other pursuits, I invite you to embrace failure, and there likely will be more than one over the next year, as an opportunity. Frame the failure as temporary, as something you can, should and, in fact, must learn and grow from – then it becomes an opportunity. Embrace your own failures and encourage and support your friends as they do the same.

Take this journey armed with the knowledge that while you cannot control every failure – you can control how you react to the experiences you have. Embrace the mindset of celebrating learning and being a life-long learner rather than focusing on individual successes or failures – join me – test the waters with informed risks and at some point, fail spectacularly – with people watching. Ultimately, as you begin at UMassD, know that you will be okay, there are amazing people here to support you, to help pick you up and dust you off and set you off with more information to stake out the future you desire to make for yourself and your family! I believe in the positively transformational power of failure and, I believe in YOU!