One of the first times I can recall failing came as a sophomore in high school when, for one semester in music class, I didn’t meet the expectations of the teacher (who happened to be my mother) to meet the requirements for an “A”. Of which was my only “B” I received for that semester out of all classes, in turn keeping me off the High Honors list. And in a competitive school, in a competitive class of students, that didn’t make me very happy. But as she explained to me, my mouth was open more than it was closed and I wasn’t listening well, regardless of my ability to sing or play the trombone. So, I got a “B”. Fast forward a few semesters, and it happened again! And I got the same answer! I was even more mad at my teacher the second time!
At the time, my level of maturity and discipline after the first “B” wasn’t high enough for me to look inward and reflect on what “I” could’ve done to make sure that never happened again. I failed in my eyes, yet I didn’t do the work to “clean up my mess when I was down”.
When we fail, we must do one or all of these 3 things:
1 - Fall forward, not backward. We can fall one of two ways - forward or backward. We know we are going to fall from time to time, and we must work to fall forward. Falling backwards only costs us more time, more pain, or even more money. Fall so that it costs us the least amount of time, pain, or money as possible. To do so often means we make a decision with less rick, or make a more conservative choice by weighing the odds and risks of each choice or option.
2 - Don’t just get back up if life or a decision knocks you down. If you are down, you might as well clean up your mess while you’re down there. Almost every time with failure, there is work to be done to clean up our mess or work to be done so that we don’t do it again. What ever it is, we must get that done first before we just pop back up. Often times as Rocky did, he popped back up and got punched in the face again. So do the work to clean up your mess while you are down before you get back up or you may get punched in the face again.
3 - Fail mindfully. Every single time we fail, we must make the humble, intentional decision to assess the failure, reflect on it, and use our minds and bodies in ways so that we work to avoid the same decision again that caused us to fail or get knocked down. Failure is a wonderful thing, but only if we do so mindfully.
Failure happens. It’s part of life. Life doesn’t give out participation trophies either. And for so long, many parts of education taught in such a manner that made failure seem like a bad thing. Parenting has been so much about helicopters and bubble wrap, we have a whole generation and many other people scared to death of failure. As leaders, as parents, as educators, as coaches, as politicians, as anyone, we must embrace failure. We must teach and preach that failure is a wonderful thing as long as we do these three things. We live life with fear of failure. We can’t run away from failure. We must look failure in the eye, then look past it, and move forward. And as John Maxwell says, “The difference between average people and achieving people is their perception of and response to failure.”