"Don't worry if they all fail, they're losers."
When the Air Force, with suspect wisdom, assigned me, at nineteen, as a technical instructor, I was excited. Electronics was my perfect world. We taught six hours a day, five days a week in three week phases. About a year in I was teaching the FPS-3 radar set. My first shirt gave me a class of wash backs, twenty some students who had failed a phase once or twice putting them on the bubble for dismissal.
He said, "Don't worry if they all fail, they're a bunch of losers and won't be missed and you won't be blamed." Why I saw this as a challenge is a mystery, but I decided to ensure their failure would not be my fault. On the first day I gave them a ten question test – hard yet fair – none but an instructor could pass. All who failed were assigned to study hall which gave me an extra two hours a day with them.
What happened next, I later learned, is that setting them up in a situation where only they would be responsible for their failure motivated them to try. They all passed.
Years later, after being fired or laid off from four straight jobs, I rememberd this experience knowing you're not a loser when you fail, only when you quit.
© 1997-2016 Gordon Hill as of February 22, 2016