The Role of Failure in Success

Long Writing


  • Duration:
  • Intended for: Individuals
  • Formality: Graded
  • Completes in: 9 steps
  • Comments: 0
  • Materials: 3
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Michelle is a writing instructor at St. Louis Community College-Forest Park where she teaches developmental writing and composition classes. She received her PhD in rhetoric…

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Assignment Overview

This paper builds on Chapters 4 and 5 of Outliers and asks students to provide a personal reflection on the relationship between failure and success.

Chapter 4 of Outliers posits that those who succeed are those whose parents instilled in them a sense of perseverance that gives them the tools necessary to stand up to adversity.

Chapter 5 takes this idea even further by giving several stories of immigrants who faced racial and ethnic discrimination overcoming economic and social hardships.

This assignment expands on the idea of facing potential failure with perseverance by taking a look at a collection of 30 quotes on failure, many of which focus on the inevitability of failing if you want to eventually succeed. That article is accompanied by a short documentary the Barkley 100, a 100-mile marathon over mountainous terrain that almost everyone fails to complete.

After discussing all of these different ways of looking at failure, students are asked to take one of the quotes from the article and use it to reflect on their own experiences and goals for the future.

Assignment Sheet
“30 Powerful Quotes on Failure” collected by Ekaterina Walters
Barkley 100 Documentary

Photo: CC from Tomasz Stasiuk

Required Materials
  • Outliers book
  • "30 Powerful Quotes" article
  • Barkley Marathon documentary
Skills developed
  • Narration
  • Reflection
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Synthesis
9 Steps to complete

1. Read Chapters 4 & 5

2. Discuss Chapters 3 and 4

3. Look at Quotes Article

4. In-Class Writing

5. Introduce Paper

6. Watch Documentary

7. Discuss Documentary

8. Revision

9. Final Paper Submission

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