Failing Well

I didn’t fail the test, I just found 100 ways to do it wrong. -Ben Franklin

I don’t really like failing. I don’t enjoy making mistakes. And I don’t like doing something unless I’m good at it.

This character trait must be genetic because I seem to have passed it on to ThingTwo. She hates making mistakes. Recently, we were playing Would You Rather during dinner. I asked the children, “Would you rather lose every time you play or never play?”

Five children said they’d rather lose and still play than never play — whether it’s a sport or a board game. ThingTwo smiled and honestly admitted, “I’d rather not play. I really hate losing.”

Earlier this year, when doing pre-algebra, she missed several problems in the lesson, making a C on the assignment. She came to me almost in tears. I explained that my goal was for her to learn, that learning was even more important than making an A. “Sweetie, it’s OK to make mistakes. You’re learning. We all make mistakes when we learn.”

With a quivering lip and eyes welled with tears, ThingTwo told me, “Yeah, but I like to learn from other people’s mistakes! I hate making my own mistakes!”

Aaah, at least she is honest.

In recent years, I’ve forced myself to try things, knowing I might not succeed. I know my children are watching, especially ThingTwo. I want her to see me try and not be the best. I want her to see that you can survive failure.

So for a while, I swam laps every morning. Even though I was horribly slow and hated it and thought I might drown Every. Single. Morning.

I took a college class — seventeen years after my own college graduation. As it turned out, I did very well in the class, but I was a total failure at cooking and laundry and being an attentive mother during those six weeks.

I tried a crafty art project this fall. It wasn’t perfect, but I learned some things to do differently if I try something like that again. And it’s good enough to hang on our dining room wall, imperfections and all.

I guess you could say I’m being more intentional in my failures. I want to fail well, learning and moving on, maybe even to fail again.

How about you? What have you failed at lately? 

We seem to gain wisdom more readily through our failures than through our successes. We always think of failure as the antithesis of success, but it isn’t. Success often lies just the other side of failure. — Leo F. Buscaglia.

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