Here is the full transcript of American businesswoman Barbara Corcoran’s TEDx Talk presentation: Rethinking Failure at TEDxBarnardCollege conference.
Listen to the MP3 Audio: Rethinking failure by Barbara Corcoran at TEDxBarnardCollege
Thank you. Very nice to be here. I’ll start with a story.
I grew up in a small town in New Jersey. It was exactly two blocks wide and one mile long and we had the biggest family in town. My mother took her six girls and put them in the girls room, painted it pink, of course, and then she put her four boys in the boys room, painted it blue. And my parents produced every one of those children from the living room couch that was between the two bedrooms. Lesson in that, by the way, and not on failure.
I first discovered the word ‘failure’ in the classroom. I can distinctly remember being in class and not being able to read or write until I was in third grade, or thereabouts when I started getting the hang of it and being ashamed of myself. But I was kind of OK with it.
I was sent back to the second-grade classroom one day after school. And I knew the moment I walked in that I was in trouble. It was Sister Stella Marie saying that she was a nun from hell. There was also a Ella Maloney that all the kids at school called the retarded girl, and there was Rudy Valentino, not the famous guy but Rudy Valentino, the Italian kid that just came off the boat as we said. And I was asked to have a seat.
When Sister Stella Marie told me if I didn’t learn to pay attention, I would always be stupid. That was the day I first discovered that I had a label, and it was about failure. My idea of hell to this day is being asked to read out loud, to have the shame that you feel reading out loud. And in a situation where education whole system judges a child’s intelligence simply based on how well they could read or write to certain abilities, I learned how to be a loser and I couldn’t wait to get out of that jail house, that everybody loved this school, I couldn’t wait the day I got out of it.