Each one of us has a superpower we often don’t utilize as we are trying to produce quality results. And an example from a project conducted by a ceramics teacher can show us exactly what this superpower is.
The teacher divided his class into two groups.
He instructed group A they would be graded on the number of pots they produced. The quality of the pots did not matter.
He told group B he would determine their grades on the quality of their pots. Quantity of their pots would not factor into their grade at all.
The students in group A worked feverishly to produce as many pots as possible. Meanwhile, the students of group B took their time and focused on quality.
Which group do you think produced better quality pots?
The results even surprised the teacher. The students in group A obviously produced the most pots because that was their objective based on the criteria for their grade. However, they also produced pots of better quality because they became familiar with the kiln and how different positions affected their products.
In other words, the students who failed the most were the ones who succeeded the most. They learned from their failures and discovered what worked and what didn’t work.
So here’s a challenge for us as teachers and coaches, which comes from our fundamental of success of Seeking Excellence:
Identify a project you stopped doing even though it was beneficial for you in some way. Imagine if you completed the activity every day for one full year. Write down 5 benefits you would gain from performing one year of this activity.
Notice this challenge just says we have to perform and complete the activity for one year. It doesn’t say anything about the quality of the work.
Now this doesn’t mean our goal should be to fail. Of course not. The students were giving their best effort to produce pots; they just didn’t care if they messed up along the way. Just like those students, we don’t have to fear mistakes and making everything perfect all the time. And we shouldn’t get so upset when failure does come our way.
The Superpower of YET
Instead of employing a fixed mindset that says failure proves we aren’t capable of something, the mindset of Seeking Excellence says failure just means we aren’t there…YET!
This is what the challenge of completing a project for one year is prompting us to do.
Don’t stop working on the project because the simple act of performing and completing the project is helping us grow. This is why we can’t get hung up on results. If the students in group A of the experiment had stopped after making their first couple pots because they weren’t very good, they would have never discovered how good they were at making pots.
How Teachers Can Use YET
As teachers and coaches, we can look at using our superpower of YET in a couple different ways.
The first is we need to model Seeking Excellence for our students. We need to show them failure is the pathway to excellence.
Yes, we need to admit and learn from our mistakes and failures. But they shouldn’t be reasons to stop.
They should be opportunities to say I’m not there YET…and when our students see us continuing on a project when we don’t get results right away they will learn to use this superpower as well.
The other way to use our superpower of YET is in our effort to build relationships and connections with young people.
We are not going to have perfect relationships with every one of our students. We are going to make mistakes and produce moments of failure. There are going to be times we say the wrong thing…or we don’t take advantage of an opportunity to say the right thing. Building relationships is a process. Like the students who learned the intricacies of the kiln to produce better pots, the more we make an effort to build relationships the better we will understand how to strengthen those relationships and create deeper connections.
So how about you?
Can you identify a project you stopped doing even though it was beneficial for you in some way? Can you imagine if you completed the activity every day for one full year? Can you write down 5 benefits you would gain from performing one year of this activity?
Let’s look at something hypothetically for a minute. Imagine every year of our adult lives we committed to working on a major project in some way. I believe most people will be able to produce something of significance and value over a period of one year. Just for even numbers sake, let’s say we are able to do this from age 20 to age 70. That’s 50 projects! Fifty significant projects which will provide value to the world in some way. Even if you are almost 40 years old like me, this is still 30 projects we have the potential to create.
When we look at it in this manner, it shows us just how much capacity for excellence and how much potential we have.
When I think about the example of the students making pots, it makes me excited to make mistakes. I don’t mean mistakes of intentionally trying to do wrong. I mean making mistakes in an effort to do what’s right.
We have the power to write our own stories in our classrooms. When we use the superpower of YET, we can build stronger relationships and deeper connections with our students. This will create a legacy of impact when we give those young people a better version of ourselves every day.