School of Hard Knocks

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I started writing this on Bean Dad Day to drag out and examine some of my thoughts around learning from failure.

Bean Dad

I won’t unpack the whole situation, but the obvious issues I see with the Bean Dad Saga is:

  • no helpful criticism or guidance from Bean Dad, just weird vague taunts
  • even fun learning sucks when you’re hungry, unfun learning becomes torturous
  • what a self-important jerk

The real meat (or beans) of it

Maybe there isn’t enough of a meaningful difference between this note and my note on sucking but the short and long is that I do think failing at things is necessary. Every answer should not be given to you at the outset. You should not receive an A on every assignment. Things should be hard and painful sometimes because being a human person in the world is hard and painful sometimes.

I think the thing about it is that people should be granted some level of agency over the amount of hard learning that have to do in a given moment. In moments of high stress, emotionality, or self-criticism, you don’t learn well. You just get upset. Lessons shouldn’t be thrust upon people. Life already does that.

Some unfun examples

Some things that I can think of that you often end up learning on-the-spot when life throws a rough situation at you.

  • how to deal with car troubles
  • how to handle being locked out of your home
  • what to do when somebody needs first aid
  • ways to cope with tragedies (breakups, job losses, deaths)

None of these are super practice-able, so you try to prep your knowledge and then you just do your best in the moment. You learn from that bad experience, and that learning makes you better at handling the thing the next time you or somebody near you is having that problem. It’s not a pleasant way to learn, but it is an effective way to learn. I don’t think it’s something we need to force on 9-year-olds.


A bean dad explainer for anyone lucky enough to have missed it.

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