Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Learning to Like the "F" word

It is a word that society teaches us not to say out loud.  It instils negative connotations.  It is aptly used as an expletive when things go really wrong… And yet something about our comprehension of this word is strangely amiss.  What four letter word am I talking about?

Today’s reading is brought to you by… an expert failer! Seriously, I could probably host my own weekend seminar.  I could call it “How to Fail - Successfully.”  But don’t sign up.  I can‘t guarantee that it wouldn‘t be a huge flop! :) Besides no one I know would actually take such a course.  No one sets out on anything with an intent to fail.  No one posts even a single failure on their timeline.  We just try to hide it, forget about it and move on.  Except that big `F` word is stamped over our heart and for some of us, we know we will never truly be able to dream the same way again.  In my 30 years I have dreamed big dreams.  I have worked my butt off to get them.  And I have failed miserably. 

Did you know that there I a difference between a failer and a failure? We are all inevitably failers.  We can't avoid failing.  It happens to the best of us. But a failure is something that none of us have to be.  Let me explain.  A failer believes that their lack of success is due to a lack of effort.  They either didn't work hard enough or they haven't kept at it long enough.  They believe that by changing their effort commitment, they will eventually succeed. On the contrary, a failure believes that their lack of success is due to a lack in and of themselves.  They don't believe that they have what it takes.

I used to believe that I wasn't capable of success.  I have struggled with this wrong belief for most of my life.  I was so convinced of this in high school that despite the fact that I was ranked as one of the best high jumpers in all of Canada, I never actually won a medal or achieved my dream of getting a scholarship.  I jumped a national ranking height once in a low-level track meet and then I could never do it again.  It got so bad that I would run up to the bar at a height that I could have done in elementary school and I would hit the bar on purpose with my hand.  It couldn't have been more obvious that my belief was wrong - I had done it before! But that was what I believed in my heart.  So if you feel like you believe something stupid about yourself that you know you shouldn't... I feel you. 

Did you know that studies had been done on the brain patterns of some rather fascinating individuals including Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein and Henry Ford? The most spectacular discovery was that there was actually nothing spectacular whatsoever.  These hugely successful, almost phenomenal individuals just had some regular old brains.  Despite their renowned successes in life, they were each quite familiar with failure.

“I have not failed.  I have just found 1000 ways that won’t work.”  Thomas A. Edison
“Failing isn’t bad when you get to learn what not to do.”
Albert Einstein   
“Failure is simply an opportunity to begin again,
this time more intelligently.”
Henry Ford
Can you imagine failing at the same thing 1000 or more times? If Edison didn't know the difference between being a failer and a failure, we might not have electricity today.  What's even more amazing is that these guys didn't just endure each failed attempt - they embraced them! They knew they were going to learn something crucial to helping them eventually succeed.  THAT is a belief worth changing in your heart.

If you have kids and if you're anything like me, you probably don't want to see your kids make the same mistakes you did.  So how can we keep them from letting their failures define them?  I had terrific parents and I did pretty good in school, but I didn't learn this concept until recently. 

If you want to train your kids to think positively about their failures - praise their effort instead of their accomplishments.

Say stuff like, "I'm so proud of you for working really hard" instead of, "You are so talented." Because not unlike the majority of the population, they just want affirmation.  You train them what to value based on how you praise them. AND buy them lot's of puzzles! Puzzles help them understand that they need all of the pieces to succeed.  They are less likely to expect shortcuts and they value each learning curve.  Children raised this way have a refreshing attitude towards failure.  They do not ruminate over their mistakes.  They simply perceive errors as problems to be solved and get to work. 

Finally, if you want to turn your own failures into stepping stones, develop gratitude about each failure you come up against.  It is teaching you a valuable lesson that you MUST learn before you can move forward.  AND recognize your true worth.  Every decision you make and every word you speak causes ripple effects.  Whether you like it or not, and whether you are aware of it or not, you are changing the world around you.  If anything matters, you matter! And the way you view your failures matters.  

So friends... don't stop dreaming, don't stop trying, and don't stop failing!  

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