Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Only Way to Fail

"Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you're climbing it." ― Andy Rooney

            The bravest man I know is my dad, though he is by far not the most humble. He is the kind of man who will never admit to failure, at least not to me. In his mind, he never loses, and the teams he supports never lose as well. Whenever I ask if the Dodgers, or Lakers won today, his response, “They played a good game and that’s all that matters.” “So, they lost,” I say. Then he says, “They didn’t lose. They just didn’t win.” Even if in any event, I beat him at a board game, he will always say that he didn’t lose, he just didn’t win.

            Losing and failing at different scales is something that everyone deals with. Sometimes, there can be so much at stake, or so much pressure to succeed. Failing doesn’t seem like an option, but it’s a very real consequence. There’s the pressure to pass exams on finals or else you risk failing the course. There’s pressure to be successful in business endeavors, or else you risk losing a lot of money and wasted time. And sometimes there is the daily pressure of making money to survive or so that others can live comfortably. Whatever the situation, there is always a risk and a chance of failure or success, or a combination of both.

            Huffington Post’s Jamilah Corbitt wrote, “3 Reasons Why It’s Okay to Fail.” She says, the most successful people are failures. Henry Ford’s first, second, and third companies went out of business, yet his “confidence was unscathed and he went on to become one of the greatest and most admired entrepreneurs in American history.” She also says failure will teach you to pick yourself up and try again. Lastly, failure will teach you much more than success ever could. You will make mistakes, possibly even repeatedly, but then learn what not to do next time.

            I coach color guard at the middle school level. All of my students are beginners and in the early stages of the learning process. I often tell my students that the only way to fail is to not try. They are all beginners, and I think it’s important for them to know that they will make mistakes. The mistakes may be small or catastrophic, and they will definitely happen, but the recovery is the most important part. Accept failure and mistakes, because it is inevitable, but then learn from it and move on.

            The fear of failure can be paralyzing, but I think it’s worse to be stuck rather than taking a risk. Whenever I’m afraid of taking a risk, my mom always asks me, “What’s the worst thing that can happen?” She really expects me to think about the worst possible outcome. Once I can imagine it, then I assess if I can survive it. I think about what I have already survived through, and I know that I can push through again. Then she asks me, “What’s the best thing that can happen?” because it’s important to have something to hope for.

            At a leadership camp I went to in high school, the director brought a white board to the front of the class, and the only instructions he gave us was, “Think of a word and try to get your word on the board without leaving your chair.” The room of nearly one hundred students was quiet and confused at first, but then someone shouted their word and the director wrote the word on the board. The room became loud with the shouts of random words, and the director ended up with twenty words on the board. When he told us to stop, he asked, “How many people didn’t get their word on the board?” More than half the room raised their hands. Then he asked, “What was the assignment?” Someone said to get our word on the board. He said no, it was to try to get your word on the board. Then he asked, “Who shouted out a word?” Nearly everyone in the room raised their hands. “Then as long as your tried, you didn’t fail.”

            I’ve seen my dad lose and “fail” many times. I’ve seen him give up on small dreams because he didn’t think he could achieve them. But the one thing I’ve repeatedly seen my dad do is try again. Whether it’s his continual support of a losing team that he’ll forever stay loyal to, or his own endeavors to achieve financial success, my dad keeps trying. He keeps dreaming, and he may put away his dreams temporarily, but he hasn’t given up on them.

            The only true way to fail is to stop trying, but as long as you keep trying, you can never really fail.

California Leadership Academy

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