On Trying and Failing

I saw an interesting graph recently, as part of my work at the Ontario Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development.
The data set showed students in grade 11 math courses and their later progress into postsecondary education. It showed the eventual progress to postsecondary education for students who excelled, passed, and failed at all four levels of study (i.e. courses for university, college/university, college, and non-postsecondary bound students).
In all cases, the students were more likely to achieve a higher level of postsecondary study if they failed at a higher level, than if they excelled at a lower level.
For example, if you were taking the university-bound level of math, and failed, you were still more likely to end up in university than someone who excelled at the college/university-bound level of math.
This was true at every level of study.
Doesn’t this fly in the face of everything you’ve told yourself about not being good enough? You’ve probably said to yourself, oh, everyone in that level is probably way ahead of me. I’ll limit myself to the lower level instead.
You need to go for the highest level you could possibly qualify for. You need to fail at the highest possible level you can. You need to try at the highest possible level you can.
I know your chronic impostor syndrome is flaring up as you read this; mine does too. Stop it. Squash it. Throw it away.
Trying and failing at the highest possible level is more valuable than excelling at a lower level.
So go ahead and fail.
Fail spectacularly.
And see where it gets you.

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