Without risk there is no reward:  How young learners can overcome their fear of failure by harnessing the entrepreneurial mindset

By Jessica Dragar, Outreach and Engagement Manager for Young Entrepreneur Institute

“In a world that’s changing so quickly, the biggest risk you can take is not taking any risk.” - Peter Thiel, PayPal co-founder

Money, time, energy, and pride are all things that adult entrepreneurs think of when exploring the viability of a new business or innovation.  Those with the courage to take a chance, we call them risk-takers – are often described as creative and full of grit.  What most people don’t see is that entrepreneurs have often failed more times than they have been successful. Why do some people take a chance on an idea, when others are fearful of failure? Some of this is tied to personality, but we believe risk-taking is a skill that can be taught and practiced. Early classroom experiences help to build risk-taking confidence, which is critical to the development of the entrepreneurial mindset.

To a student, being a risk-taker means something very different than to an adult.  For our youngest learners, taking a risk means being vulnerable enough to share a new idea, raising a hand in class when they aren’t sure they have the “right” answer, or trying something they have never done before. We know that taking risks and experiencing failure should be celebrated and are valuable to the learning process.

Entrepreneurship education, especially for children in grades K-8, instills in students the importance of trying and failing. With each risk, they collect information on how they might change their approach for a different outcome in the future.

Here are some examples:

  • Read a book that explores different types of risks associated with the characters, and whether the risk was social, emotional, physical or financial. 
  • Have students create hypotheses of what will happen and develop alternative endings to their favorite stories.  
  • Find a curriculum or activity like those in the WagiLabs Kidpreneur Playbook that encourages students to be curious and empathetic while fostering collaboration. 

Helping young children develop these necessary skills will produce many positive outcomes. Introducing risk-taking and its related themes builds confidence and self-esteem. Kids become more active participants in their education and are prepared to take on the new challenges that come with learning in the future.

Interested in exploring ways to bring entrepreneurship education into your classroom? Reach out to Young Entrepreneur Institute or log on to YIPPEE.exchange to learn more resources available at no cost to educators.