One of our hometown magazines recently asked me to write an article for the Father’s Day issue. This is the the message about failure that I’m teaching my kids.
KIDS: HOW TO WADE THE RIVER OF FAILURE
I love you, kids! That’s why I hope that you’ll fail big, and fail often.
When I look back on my own failures, including some recent ones, I regret that I don’t have more of them. I waited too long to add some losses.
Failing stinks, and it can really sting. But let me tell you the truth about failure:
“Being a failure,” and “failing,” are totally different. I hate to even use those two terms in the same sentence.
Everyone thinks they are afraid of failure. They’re not. Everyone is afraid of BEING A FAILURE.
Failing is something you do.
Being a failure is who you are.
You can “do” failures and be insanely, wildly successful at the same time! “Being a failure,” remember, has nothing to do with your winning and losing. You’re NOT a “winner just for trying,” and you’re NOT a “failure just for losing.”
When you fail at something, you’ll feel that stinging feeling I mentioned. That’s normal, and it’s okay. When you feel it, you must be careful! That sting has a really, really loud voice that screams in your head. It tells you that you’ll never win, that you’re dumb for trying, that everyone is laughing at you, that you’re not good enough. That’s the voice that says, “You ARE a failure.”
It’s a lie, and you must tell that voice that it’s lying to you. How crazy is that voice? Remember, Big H, your last soccer game? You’re a determined, powerful, fast, left-footed(!) player. Yet you tripped. That voice would scream, “See! You tripped! Don’t ever walk again!” Crazy.
Let me tell you 3 reasons why failing, while painful, is good. Then you’ll see how (God forbid) you can BE a failure. Most importantly, I want you to remember the river story.
3 quick reasons why it’s good to fail:
- Failures only come when you’re trying. Newborns don’t fail at walking, or talking, or writing code, or building houses.
- Failures tell you if you’re trying something worthwhile. The only thing that stands between you and amazing is something difficult. It’s only difficult because you haven’t done it yet, or enough, to be good at it. So if you’re not failing, you’re not trying something big enough.
- Failures are the schoolteachers of successful people. When you lose, you have a stunningly clear education. Embrace the loss, and choose to learn.
Does that help you understand why I want you to fail big, and fail often? It should also help you understand how you can BE a failure.
In order to be a failure, try nothing.
When you think about failures, I want you to remember a few years ago when we walked in the Buffalo River. The water was low, so we could step from stone to stone. Sometimes we slipped into the water.
Think of the river as the days, weeks, years of your life. “Success” is a place across the river [like a goal or dream]. Each of those stones, leading across the river, is a place of failure. Imagine walking from rock to rock [failure to failure]. Others, sitting on the side, afraid to step out, might laugh and point.
“See!” they’ll say. “You got wet! You’re a failure!” [There’s always a group of those people. They feel safer together.]
You’re not failures, kids! That stone isn’t the end—it’s a step. It didn’t send you miles down the river, or stop you. In fact, it took you closer to success! Keep going, keep failing, and learning, and going, and failing, and learning, and growing. Soon you’ll be across the river, and look back at the others too afraid to try.
And then, kids, step out again. Keep walking, onward upstream.
I’ll be walking with you.
I love you,