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Lifelong Learning - The Fear of Failure (February 2014)
By: Dr. Lu Sweet
I recently read an article by Bill Cole where he asked, "How do you react when you make a mistake, or when you fail? Do you have a plan for using failure to help you succeed?" These questions intrigued me. I don't think any of us do a good enough job at preparing ourselves ahead of time for the possibility of failure and how to learn from it.
Every one of us makes mistakes. I know I make at least a dozen before lunch every day. Sometimes it's as simple as forgetting my lunch, neglecting my oil change longer than I should, or eating something that's not so good for me. Some mistakes are small, while others are a bit bigger. The important thing to remember is to learn from them as we've all been told before. Confucius said that "a man who has committed a mistake and doesn't correct it is committing another mistake."
I'm not a great typist by any means. I'm a good speller, but somewhere between my brain telling my fingers what to type, the words don't always look right. The cool thing with my keyboard is that there is indeed a delete key, where I get a "do over". Napoleon Bonaparte said that the greatest general is the one who makes the fewest mistakes. In other words, it's about containing or minimizing mistakes, not eliminating them completely. I also believe that in order to move beyond mistakes and to attempt to learn from them, it's important to take responsibility for our mistakes without laying blame. I know I make mistakes so I shouldn't try to pretend I don't or blame others. Blaming doesn't solve anything or make it any better. According to Mr. Cole, admitting failure shows that you are a secure person-you are secure in the knowledge that you are an imperfect human being. He went on to add that we all leak oil. I love that.
My daughter loves soccer. I read somewhere that soccer great, Mia Hamm only made about 17% of the shots she took. The truth is she also missed 100% of the shots she never took. The same is true of life. Being afraid to fail can limit us if we let it. There are enough people in the world, unfortunately, that try to limit people. We definitely don't need to do it to ourselves.
Recently, the school district celebrated Anti-Bullying Week, by increasing education about what we can do to fight bullying. Students learned that there are three roles in most bullying situations: the bully, the victim and the by-stander. Unfortunately, I'm not sure we can ever stomp out 100% of the bullying (wouldn't that be awesome!), but we can teach our children to be respectful to others AND to themselves. We can teach them that it's ok to make a mistake and try again. It's not failure, that results from making mistakes - it's growth. And that they need to surround themselves with people who encourage effort, learning from mistakes and failing forward.
I have made many mistakes and will make many more. I don't fret about that because I know that the people I choose to have in my life support and even applaud my efforts and they don't make me feel poorly when I mess up. In basketball and soccer and hockey the idea is to aim at the goal. Goals are wonderful thing. In fact, I would remind you all and I remind myself, that I need to set my goals realistically high. I would rather set my goal high and fall a little short, than set my goal too low and easily meet it. I actually see that as more of a failing.
The bottom line is this I think: "We only live once" and "if at first you don't succeed, try, try again". We hear it, we say, we should live it. And, if we mess up, as Bill Cole says, we should be secure enough in ourselves, that we are okay with making mistakes. In fact, Woody Allen said, "If you're not failing every now and again, it's a sign you're not doing anything very innovative." Have a fantastic day.
Yours in Education.
Dr. Lu Sweet, WWCC Athletic Director
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