Larry Cuban on the “F” Word

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No, not that “F” word.

Larry Cuban shared his thoughts on leveraging failure as a valuable step in the learning process, something I’ve tried to convey to teachers and students over the years.

Cuban begins by recounting his career journey, which spans from his start as a high school teacher in 1955 to his time as a district superintendent and later as a professor at Stanford. He emphasizes that his career, while marked by many successes, was also filled with failures, which he believes are often overlooked in discussions about career progression.

Cuban writes, “While on the surface my long career as an educator appears as an unvarnished success albeit a modest one, it was a zig-zag path with cul-de-sacs and, truth be told, a road pitted with potholes of failure.” He argues that failures are an integral part of success and that society’s tendency to avoid discussing failures does a disservice to the reality of most people’s career trajectories.

He shares several instances of his own failures, including being rejected for teaching positions, struggling to connect with certain students, failing to reduce racial tensions in a department he administered, and being turned down for numerous superintendent posts and a deanship at Stanford’s School of Education. He also discusses his failures in getting published, with many of his submissions being rejected by publishers and editors.

Cuban emphasizes the importance of acknowledging and learning from failures. He quotes several famous figures to illustrate his point, including basketball star Michael Jordan, Winston Churchill, and Maya Angelou. He writes, “Defeats were doors that closed in my face. Yet other doors opened.” He explains that failures can lead to new opportunities and that persistence in the face of failure can lead to eventual success.

In conclusion, Cuban states, “Looking back at my career and the mix of success and failure make clear to me how complex the interaction between winning and losing is.” He underscores the importance of adopting a growth mindset and learning from failure, making it clear that success and failure are integral parts of any career journey.


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