Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Failure, the School House of Success

Have you ever heard the old saying that you can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but you can never fool all of the people all of the time?

I think that the person we most likely need to be concerned about fooling is ourselves. We often bring ourselves to ruin by what we think of ourselves. We feel like we are losers and will always be such. Reasons line up in a cascade of major premises playing against minor premises. These sorts of experiences start early in our lives and persist with us until we draw our final breath. Example: I asked the head cheerleader to go to prom with me. She laughed in my face and made me feel like a pathetic loser. Therefore, I will never ask another pretty girl to go to prom with me again. I will instead stay home and be depressed and feel sorry for myself.

Another example: I interviewed for a job that I really wanted. There was one opening and 2,000 people applied for the position. Someone else got the job. Why did I even try against such odds? I am a pathetic loser. I am going to work at the car wash the rest of my life and never try to get that great job again.

It is my personal experience, as one who can speak authoritatively on losing, that failure is an important component of a valuable learning curve. As we step back from failure and assess why we did not make the grade, we expose ourselves to valuable introspection. If we carefully assess the situation we can make great strides on the next attempt. Therefore, failure becomes a valuable classroom in the school of life.

I have a son who was an excellent baseball player. He was decent from the time he was a 6 year old  tee baller. He got a little better each year. He was selected to the All Star teams every year all through his early youth. In our town the jump between Little League as a 12 year old to the next level was a select league which was a popularity contest, usually between parents, known as Babe Ruth. The officials of Babe Ruth would go around to all the Little League district tournaments and compile a list of the top players. They would then send them a letter and invite them to come and join their league the next season. All the other players went to Junior Major League, sponsored by the Parks and Rec department in our city. All players in this league were assigned to a team and playing time was mandated. In other words, they played for the love of the game.

My son was sort of small and did not get the invitation to Babe Ruth. Lots of his friends went to the select league and he felt sort of down about the process. His Mom and Dad encouraged him to continue to play and enjoy the game. He excelled in this less stellar league. He owned the short stop position. He had a wonderful coach named Bill Lord who taught him that he was special. He made All Stars, played in a state tournament and grew in size and talent.

To make the story shorter I move along to High School. He made the varsity and was playing behind a kid who had gone through the select league. After a while my son caught the eye of his coach with his ability at short stop. Eventually he replaced the primadonna and sent him to the bench and became the starting short stop on the varsity of one of the largest high schools in north Florida. He played the position all through his high school days and walked on in college eventually.

He could have quit trying . He did not. He took his failure and worked on areas that he needed to improve. There is a definition of luck that goes like this: “ Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” The impetus to prepare comes so very often in the face of failure.

Failure becomes a valuable school house. The pretty girl turns you down for that prom date. Rather than give up why not take some dance lessons. Buy some new clothes. You know what you have to do. If you miss out on the job or promotion then step back and prepare yourself for the next time. More education, certification, practice you know the drill.

Someone once said that success is failure turned inside out.