I want my kids to fail.
I truly do. And I hope that on occasion, after a lot of hard work, personal sacrifice and public scrutiny, that they fail spectacularly. I want them to feel the crushing tightness in their chest of deep disappointment as they recognized their efforts will amount to nothing. That no matter how much they wanted a thing, or tried for it, it wasn’t meant to happen. I want this for them because looking back at my own life, I’ve seen that nothing has made me grow and learn to succeed more, than my personal failings have.
Nobody wants to be labeled a failure for obvious and unfortunate reasons. The word itself just positively oozes feelings of regret, calamity, impotence and defeat. Sometimes we even picture failure as the people you know who never tried. Those who gave up before starting while lamenting the unfairness of it all. This is not something I want for my kids. I want them to have many successes. But, I also don’t want them to get things handed to them the way we all know some people have.
All too frequently we encounter those people who seemed to have everything magically fall into place for them. Those who led a charmed existence where downsides don’t apply. I don’t begrudge them at all. If anything, I’m pretty damned envious and wish I could somehow live in their magical bubble of stardust, awesome hair and gift baskets. But what I’ve recognized from many of these people is that they lack a certain level of empathy for those who struggle, and they also seem to fall the hardest if the bubble ever does burst. They don’t have a true sense of how to cope with unfortunate turns, they are less apt to seek out or accept assistance and they unhealthily bottle up the regret.
I want my kids to know that I’m a failure.
I’ve failed in school.
I’ve failed in sports.
I’ve failed at work.
I’ve failed professionally.
I’ve failed in friendships.
I’ve failed in love.
I’ve failed as a parent.
I’ve oftentimes failed myself.
I want them to know this. But I want them to know that with each failure, I learned. I learned how not to do things. I learned how not to treat people. I learned what my own weaknesses are and I know to use my energies to hone my strengths. Failing hard has brought me to dark places. But through that I’ve learned that the darkest places can often hide wonderful paths that I wouldn’t have sought if I hadn’t failed.
What I want is for them to learn. I want them to recognize that failure isn’t the end of a thing. Failure is the beginning of a new life knowing that you tried something that didn’t work out. Failure marks the point where they can look back at the charred and smoldering wreckage of a thing they worked for, something they struggled for, and something that wasn’t meant for them. I want them to look back at this failure and feel pride. To be able to walk away from a failure with confidence knowing that they pushed back on the odds and the odds overcame them. But that they tried, they learned and they are now more prepared for the next attempt.
I hope they know that the only failure is not trying. It’s accepting defeat before the engagement even takes place. I want them to grow up taking the chances that will lead to their failures. I want them to try. I want their failures to prepare them to cope with the other, larger failures they are likely to face as adults. I want them to look at the word failure as an opportunity, not as a hopeless bog that might stigmatize them. I’m going to be so proud of my little failures. And I can’t wait to be there to help them dust themselves off to start again on their next even better failure.