I hate to fail. It feels awful. It makes me feel like I’m not good enough. What I hate even more is watching my kids fail—seeing the look on their faces as they start to believe they’re not good enough.
My kids were recently in a Taekwondo tournament. They have one every year and this is our fourth year. Some years we walk away with medals, some years we don’t. Some years one of my kids wins something while the other does not. It is with mixed emotions that we enter into this tournament each year.
That said, it is optional. In fact, some of their friends decided not to compete this year because of the let down of not winning a medal last year. While I understand the inclination to save everybody a little heartache, I choose to handle it differently. I choose to encourage my kids to give it a try and see how it goes.
My kids did okay. In fact, they both lost the first part of competition right away. No medal. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Not for that part. Other kids’ names were announced and medals were awarded, as my kids stood by and watched, disappointed and let down.
For the second round, the sparring matches, they both got 3rd place medals. Great, right? Sort of. They thought they’d get 1st place for both parts. Overall, they were mildly disappointed, but happy that they each walked away with something.
Some kids cried (Mr. A. was even fighting to suck back the tears at one point). But as we were leaving, I explained to them that it’s better to give it a shot and lose than not to take the chance at all.
And this is why: EVERYBODY FAILS! Failing is part of life. Sometimes we win. Sometimes we lose.
This is a hard concept for adults to grasp, let alone kids.
How many times have I failed in my life?
Hard as it may be sometimes, I now choose to look at failure as character-building. It’s not always easy to take this viewpoint, but I try. And this is what I try to teach my boys.
I have issues with anxiety and panic attacks. Always have. Always will. It used to REALLY bring me down. It wasnt enough that I’d have a panic attack, but then I’d spend the next week furious with myself about the fact that I had let myself have the panic attack.
I now choose to look at my anxiety in a different light. Instead of being mad at myself for succumbing to my anxiety, I now just accept it as part of who I am. Every time I have a setback, I look at it as a way to move myself forward. I find the learning. This is not always easy. I sometimes need reminders — from myself or from family members — but ultimately, I usually end up looking at it as a learning.
That’s only one aspect of life where I fail. Failure for me comes in many forms. I will never stop having failures. Nobody will.
Failure is how we learn and grow.
Failure can tell us where we went wrong in the first place.
Failure can set us on the right path.
Failure encourages us to try something new — or to just try harder.
Imagine a world where failure didn’t exist? Imagine how self-righteous we’d be if we knew we’d always succeed. Imagine the important life lessons we’d miss out on. Where would the world of sports be without failure? There always has to be a loser, right? That’s what makes winning feel so good. I always tell my kids, if it were Christmas every day, Christmas wouldn’t be special. Same goes for winning.
Fortunately, we have failure to ground us; to teach us; to humble us.
Failure paves the way to success.
Failure breeds creativity.
Acknowledging failure shows integrity.
My lesson to my boys coming out of their tournament: Don’t be afraid to fail. See it as an important and valuable part of life. See it as something that makes you a better person.
Like I said, this is not an easy attitude to have all the time. But it’s an important lesson that we all should learn.