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by: Angela Maiers

Classroom Habitudes Lesson: Perseverance – Failing to Succeed

This is an excerpt from my book, Classroom Habitudes. The following presentation and mini-lesson is one I share with students in teaching the Habitude of Perseverance. The italicized text in the mini-lesson (below presentation) is what I say to the class.

I want students walking away with one big idea: they are stronger than they think they are. If I can help them find a goal, however small, that is worth enduring, they can experience in my classroom their abilities to clear the pebbles, and by doing that, cross the mountain.


Persevering learners view failure as a learning experience, using each mistake as tuition, and each situation as an opportunity to glean something new.

Stories of individuals overcoming the odds are inspiration to all, but the heart of perseverance, and the reason a very small percentage of people ever achieve their full potential is they give up after the first sign of struggle.

The phrase “try, try again” is not just fodder for encouragement, but are the reason so few achieve if they don’t hear that clarion call. It is estimated that 90 percent of people gave up just about the time they were ready to succeed. If they had only kept on going…

To illustrate this point, I give students the following “Success Quiz” As I read the statements about each of these true-life persons, students decide whether or not the person was a success or failure in their field. Go ahead-give it a try yourself, and feel free to add others, famous or not, to the list.


____ Artist: All he wanted to do was to sketch cartoons. He applied with a Kansas City newspaper. The editor said, “It’s easy to see from these sketches that you have no talent.” No studio would give him a job. He ended up doing publicity work for a church in an old, dilapidated garage.
____ Writer:Trying to make ends meet, this writer submitted his first childrens book to 27 publishers. He was rejected each time.
____ Athlete: As a baseball player, he once held the record for striking out more than any player in the history of baseball: 1,330 times.
____Politician: defeated 7 times in run for political office.
____Athlete: missed his target 9,000 times, lost 300 games

So, what were your answers? Whether you answered success or failure, you’re right! Each of these people was both a failure and success. Here’s a bit of the conversation that follows:

Boys and Girls,

Let me ask you this, would you have kept on playing baseball if you struck out 1,330 times? Babe Ruth did and wound up with 714 home runs. 

Would you have kept on in politics if you were defeated 7 times? I am so glad that Abraham Lincoln didn’t. Would you have given up on the third time, fourth, sixth? Abe hung in there and succeeded in becoming the 16th and one of the most respected, presidents of the United States. 

And what about the cartoonist whom no one would hire? The one who was told that he had no talent? The old garage he worked in was in such bad shape that it had mice. One day, he sketched one of those mice. Any guesses as to the name of that mouse? The mouse one day became famous as “Mickey Mouse.” The artist, of course, was Walt Disney. 

The writer whose childrens book was rejected by 23 publishers? Take a wild guess. Dr. Seuss. By the way, the 24th publisher sold six million copies. 

And NBA great, Michael Jordan once said, “I have missed more that 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions, I have been entrusted with the game winning shot…and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is precisely why I succeed.” 

Successful people never give in. They just keep on going and going, and here is why: Failure is a part of success. Successful people expect to fail. You cannot choose when success is going to be, so you have to keep on going, keep on giving, and keep on practicing, so you will be ready for that moment when it comes. These are great points to ponder as lead perfectly into our next discussion; failure-our best teacher!