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"The greatest teacher, failure is."

May 18, 2018

 

 

In The Last Jedi, Yoda appears just at the right moment to teach a distressed and utterly disheartened Luke Skywalker. When he addresses the aging man as "Young Skywalker," we feel the wisdom and compassion of the elder Yoda. He has several messages to pass on. One is that Skywalker continues to search the horizon for answers, when what he needs is right in front of his nose. He has merely to awaken to see it.

 

Yoda acknowledges that Skywalker is flawed, he has failed, and that he must not fail again. When Skywalker whines that he can't be what others need him to be, Yoda reminds him that he is good enough, As Yoda has taught him in the past, Skywalker must go forth not "trying" but "doing," will full resolve, trust, and faith.

 

To meet the challenges he faces, Skywalker simply must pass on what he has learned. That includes his strength and mastery, but also his weaknesses, follies, and failures --most of all, his failures. "The greatest teacher, failure is."

 

I played this scene to my students at Stanford University to encourage self reflection on vulnerability and humility. Many found it reassuring to be reminded that they do not need to be always strong and perfect, because they know that they are not. Accepting themselves as they are at this moment is liberating and releases new energy to be more than what they have become. They realize that they can be flawed, fail, learn from their failure and then teach what they have learned.

 

Yoda's final message is one to inspire and humble all teachers. "We are what they grow beyond." This is a reminder that our purpose as mentors is not to be perfectly, strong masters but to be imperfect, vulnerable and wholly dedicated to enabling and empowering our students to go beyond what we have been able to do.

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