New NIU podcast strives to change the way we think about failure

When Kristin Brynteson and Kim Likier sat down to think up a topic for NIU STEAM’s latest podcast, failure was an obvious choice. “We talk about failure a lot,” the co-creators of the new Failure Bites podcast agree.

“Failure-based learning is big around here,” Likier continues, referring to the project- or problem-based learning style that is central to the mission of NIU STEAM. “You can’t succeed until you’ve failed along the way because that’s just how learning works.”

Brynteson and Likier, creators of the NIU Failure Bites podcast.

While NIU STEAM is dedicated to a project- or problem-based approach to learning, where trying, falling short and revising are understood as part of the learning process, Likier and Brynteson believe everyone needs a reminder that failure is an unavoidable part of life and that how we react to failure is what matters.

“When Kim brought up the idea of doing a failure podcast, our discussions led to this idea that everybody’s got a failure story,” Brynteson says. “Sometimes they’re big failures, sometimes they’re smaller, but I think people need to know that we’ve all been through it, that everybody – even the most successful people you know – have had these experiences. What differentiates the successful from the unsuccessful is how they deal with it, how they recover and how they see it as part of the process and not the end.”

Likier continues, “We were thinking about how many successful people in the world failed a ton before they got where they are, so we thought it would be great to hear stories from a bunch of different people, from all different backgrounds and all different professions and industries, who failed along the way.”

The short-form podcast (most episodes are less than five minutes long) is designed in part to be used as a classroom discussion starter. But Brynteson, who is director of educator professional development for NIU STEAM and the NIU Center for P-20 Engagement, says the short length also makes the podcast appealing for young people and accessible to anyone who would like a bite-sized break to renew their motivation.

“The goal was always to keep it very short so you can get a bump of inspiration,” Brynteson says. “It’s kind of like running into someone really interesting in an elevator and hearing a little bit of their story.”

The episodes currently available feature stories from a NASA scientist, an award-winning novelist, a feature filmmaker and a college president, to name just a few.

Brynteson with Ariel Ries, owner of DeKalb’s Fargo Skateboarding, who will be featured in an upcoming episode.

While they love all the episodes too much to choose a favorite, Likier and Brynteson do admit that their interview with Ryan Prouty, manager of mission integration and operations at NASA, has stayed with them both.

“Her story is one of those that just stuck with me,” Brynteson says. “I hear myself quoting that story a lot. Her story of the advice she was given – that no one will pay attention to how you act when you succeed, but everyone will pay attention to how you behave when you don’t – and how that shaped her career was really inspiring.”

Episodes are currently available at https://www.northernpublicradio.org/topic/failure-bites or wherever you get your podcasts, with new episodes released every two weeks.

Learn more about NIU STEAM at niu.edu/niusteam.

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