Fort Building 101

How Mistakes and Failures Lead to Stronger Boys

Inspired by The Manhood Manual book series, our e-newsletter brings parents and educators a blend of fun stories, challenges, and growth lessons for boys on their path to manhood. Expect a Cool Idea for engaging learning, a Big Problem to ponder about growing up, and a Lesson Learned to help build remarkable boys.

Accepting failure may seem counterintuitive, but it’s important to recognize that mistakes are a natural part of learning and personal development. When we encourage boys to take risks, face challenges, and learn from their errors, they become better equipped to handle setbacks and keep going when times get tough. This builds resilience and fosters a mindset of growth, empowering boys to view failure as a pathway to improvement rather than an overwhelming obstacle.

The Cool Idea

In The Manhood Manual – A Comic Adventure, Jeffrey learns (often the hard way) that failure is a part of learning. Like when he built a cool tree fort but forgot to include a way to get down from it. Failure is a natural part of growing up for kids but sometimes they don’t realize it.

Embarking on a fort-building project is an excellent way for boys to understand the importance of failure on the path to success.

To begin, you and your man-in-the-making should brainstorm and sketch a design for the fort. This encourages creativity and critical thinking. Once you have a plan, gather your building materials. These could be cardboard boxes or wooden planks, along with duct tape for a cardboard fort or nails and a hammer for a wooden one. Don’t forget to gather some paint and decorations (the weirder the better) for the final touches. (You can do all of this for free, but if you’re looking for something pre-packaged go to Makeafort.)

Now, with parent supervision and guidance, start assembling the fort. This is where the most important lessons can be learned. It’s likely that you’ll encounter challenges, perhaps a wall that won’t stay up or a window that blocks an entrance. However, these aren’t failures – they’re opportunities to problem-solve and learn. Work through these difficulties together, exploring different solutions until you find one that works.

Once the structure of the fort is complete, let your son decorate and personalize his creation. This fosters a sense of ownership and pride in what he’s accomplished. Finally, spend some time reflecting on the process. Discuss the challenges you faced, how you overcame them, and how these obstacles were an essential part of the journey to success. Remember, the goal isn’t to build a perfect fort. It’s to enjoy the process, learn from challenges, and understand that perceived failures are often the steppingstones to success. And certainly, take pictures of you and the fort so that you can remember the experience forever. Happy building!

The Big Problem

Boost your boy’s resilience and growth mindset with these three transformative books. “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” by Carol S. Dweck explores the power of mindsets and highlights how adopting a growth mindset enables boys to perceive failure as a learning opportunity, not a permanent setback. When boys embrace a growth mindset, they understand that failure is not a reflection of their worth but an opportunity for learning and improvement. It’s not about being good enough, but about growing, improving, and always striving for more.

Jessica Lahey’s “The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed” is a treasure trove of advice for parents on raising independent, resilient children by allowing them to experience and learn from failure.

Lastly, Angela Duckworth’s “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance” illuminates the importance of grit — a blend of passion and perseverance — in achieving success. Duckworth’s research proves that boys who cultivate grit learn to persist in the face of failure and embrace it as a stepping stone to long-term achievements. Reading these books could be your first step in teaching boys how to turn failure into a springboard for success.

These insightful books provide a valuable toolkit for parents and educators seeking to instill a healthy perspective on failure in boys. Each book underscores the importance of resilience, grit, and a growth mindset in shaping a boy’s journey towards success. By understanding and embracing the lessons within these books, we can equip boys with the skills and mindset to face challenges head-on, perceive failures as opportunities for learning and growth, and ultimately, succeed in their endeavors. Empowering boys with this wisdom not only strengthens their individual capacities but also contributes to their development as confident, resilient, and successful individuals in society.


Dweck, C.S. (2006). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. New York: Random House.

Lahey, J. (2016). The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed. New York: HarperCollins.

Duckworth, A. (2016). Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. New York: Scribner Book Company.

The Lesson Learned

Looking for more? The Big Life Journal is an excellent resource for parents and teachers looking to nurture a growth mindset in boys. This journal, backed by research in positive psychology, encourages children to reflect on their experiences, set goals, and embrace challenges. By using the journal, boys can develop the skills and mindset necessary to view failure as a steppingstone to success.

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