Learning the value of failure

Richard, Holly and Joan
Holly Branson
Holly Branson's writing
Published on 26 April 2018

I’ve been having some fascinating conversations recently about the importance of schools teaching young people about the positives of failure.

My dad has always been a great believer that we learn more from failure than we do from success. It’s only by challenging ourselves (no matter our age) and accepting that failing is a part of life and a great way to learn, that we can achieve great things.

Close up of Richard and Holly Branson as Holly gives Richard a kiss on the cheek
Image from Adam Slama

There’s a funny story that sums up his attitude perfectly...

When I was 17-years-old, I took my driving test and thankfully I passed first time. As you can imagine, I was beaming with pride and couldn’t wait to tell my parents – especially when Dad had given me my first ever lesson.

But when I called Dad to tell him the news, his reaction wasn’t quite what I’d expected! “Uhmmm Holly, really? That’s disappointing news. I was so hoping you would fail. I know you study hard and love school but it’s about time you failed at something or you’re never going to learn anything valuable about life.”

Richard Branson with a young Holly and Sam Branson
Image from the Branson family

I didn’t realise it at the time, but he was completely right. In the last two decades, I have learned and grown far more from the things that didn’t quite go the way I hoped or expected, than from those that were great successes. The earlier we learn to embrace failure as a positive rather than a negative, the healthier and happier we’ll be.

What's the most valuable thing you've learned through failure?