Words of wisdom from Scots gran

Robert the Bruce
Robert the Bruce

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Well folks, did you hear the one about the £4,343-a-term Wimbledon High School for Girls introducing a ‘failure week’?

Head teacher Heather Hanbury believes that for high-achieving girls, where the fear of failure can be crippling, intellectual resilience and robustness is vitally important.

Successful people learn from failure, pick themselves up and move on.

Yep. I learned that one as a child from my Roman Catholic fire and brimstone Scots gran.

When I failed at anything, she would say: ‘Och lass, pick yourself up, dust yourself down and start all over again.’

But Ms Hanbury needed a whole week of talks and working groups for both pupils and parents to learn that failure, or learning to lose, is not a bad thing.

Some lessons featured the early failures of now famously successful people. James Dyson made 5,127 prototypes before coming up with his brilliant vacuum.

So what do we think? Young people are under increasing pressure to achieve and be successful.

But a whole week on how to fail seems a bit OTT for me.

Again, when I was a youngster, if I felt fear of failure, Scotty came up with another motivational story – Robert the Bruce and the spider.

The legend goes that Robert, medieval King of Scotland, was defeated by the English, went into exile and hid in a cave.

Whilst there he watched a little spider try to spin a web. Time and time again the spider would fail, but slowly climb back until it managed to stick a strand of silk to the cave’s wall and weave its web.

Robert was inspired by the spider’s perseverance and went on to defeat the English at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.

Hence the saying ‘if at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again.’

These two sayings kept me ‘keeping on’ when all I wanted to do was quit. It took my Scots gran five minutes, not five days, to teach me that losing is part of winning.