But until then I am content to offer my ramblings in print and I hope that you'll continue to enjoy reading them. And with that having been said I suppose it's time to get to my latest post!
TRUE FAILURE ONLY COMES WHEN WE STOP TRYING
Think back to when you were younger, much younger. Back to the time when you could be anything you ever dreamed. Recall the time in your life when it was all real. You could do magic, you could walk a tightrope or you could be a racecar driver knowing that every trick would be a success, you could fall a thousand feet and still land with a smile on your face, and you could crash over and over again without getting so much as a scratch.
Do you remember how it could have been four degrees below zero outside and you and your friends would have pitched tents and lived on the playground if some relatively sane adult didn’t force you to line up and go back inside so you could have story time? Yes, if that annoying person hadn’t ushered you back into the warmth and security of the indoors, you were fairly certain you and your buddies could have foraged for nuts and berries and you’d have been perfectly fine. Because back then everything was possible.
But if I’m being honest, it wasn’t always lollipops and lemon drops back then for any of us. There were a few things we could have lived without. Like kickball. Ah, yes kickball; the king of playground sports. Remember how we stood in line waiting to be picked; hoping we were worthy of being chosen by the ‘it’ kids whose index fingers had the power to either draw us into their schoolyard fold or to stab us in our ever hopeful souls?
If you were cool you always got picked early. However, if you were like the majority of little kids around the world, you had to sweat it out, praying to whatever deity your parents made you believe in that you’d make it on a team before the final two because you were bright enough back then to realize that the length of time you had to stand in the god-awful ‘pick-me' line showed your position in the proverbial (primary school) pecking order.
No doubt we all, at least once, have felt the painful sting of being chosen last and those are the sorts of memories that stay with a person for a very long time; molding them into the adults they eventually become. But, we’re older now…wiser. And we’ve matured enough to realize how childish it was to dwell on such trivial things.
Oh please! Are you serious? You can rationalize all you want, but it doesn’t negate the fact that being picked last sucks. Go ahead and admit it. It bugged you then and it still bugs you now. And it’s perfectly okay to be a perturbed about your past but you mustn’t let the anger or regrets you may have bottled up during your youth rule the life you now have because we all must acknowledge what was so we can move forward to what is.
After all it’s those times when we stood in line waiting, hoping we’d be picked, and believe me we’ve all stood in a line like the dreaded kickball line at one time or another in our lives, that taught us so much about ourselves and the world. We learned resiliency, composure, and patience. All of which are lessons that we hope our own children will also learn and grow from.
Of course in today’s touchy-feely politically correct world, we’ve been told by ‘experts in the field of educational psychology’ that children shouldn’t be allowed to ‘pick-n-choose’ teammates as it might lead to a negative impact on the psyche of the children who get chosen last. And according to these sage experts if we so much as hint to a child that he or she might not be the absolute best at everything they try, be it sports or academics, we’re setting them up for a lifetime of failure.
They, those experts, also suggest that as we move toward a grand world order there should be a sense of blind equality in our schools that will one day filter out to the mainstream. Because, they say, when we close our eyes, everyone is the same. But the world is far too beautiful to shut our eyes to it and quite frankly it’s those differences that make life worth living. Besides if you walk around with your eyes closed you’re liable to take a sixty story step…straight down.
Maybe that's why those of us who live in the real world have a hard time swallowing those particular pills of wisdom because no matter how heavily sugar coated we make things so that everyone has a chance to feel special, there will always be a first and a last even if it’s an unspoken ranking. But please don’t get me wrong, I do understand and believe whole heartedly that we all need to feel the exhilaration that comes from individual successes as well as team driven accomplishments. And that people, in general, should be encouraged to try all sorts of new things if for no reason other than to broaden one’s horizons.
However I also think it’s important to note that we cannot all be ‘the best’ at everything we try but we certainly can try our best to be all we can be. And to be honest, sometimes we learn more about ourselves through our flaming crashes than we ever learn from our golden victories. So failure isn’t always a bad thing.
But unfortunately failure isn't really an option for children today because the mere notion of failure (regardless of whether it may actually lead to a positive, character building event) is viewed as a cancer in the perfect little world where educational psychologists live and dole out their wisdom to other educators. And because children are never given a chance to fail, they can't make all those mistakes from which some of the most important lessons in life are learned. Chief among them being: True failure only comes when we stop trying.
Good grief, if it wasn’t for common sense logic like that, we’d still be reading by gas lights because it took Thomas Edison, the Wizard of Menlo Park, thousands of attempts before he figured out how to make a filament that could resist an electric current without burning up or outright exploding within the glass bulbs in which he placed them. And when asked about his numerous failures with the design of the light bulb Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just figured out 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Edison's never give up attitude should be an inspiration to children today. But instead of inspiring effort, words like his tend to fall on deaf ears. Because children who don’t know what failure is, just don’t get it and sadly they never will.
And then when they grow up and join the ranks of those of us living in Adult-land and have to deal with all the everyday ups and downs that come with being a grown up they're overwhelmed because they never learned how to pick themselves up and brush the dust of their britches when they get knocked backwards by the hand of Fate. But what do I know? I'm not an educational psychologist. Granted I did teach middle and high school for twelve years and saw first hand how children who'd never failed at anything were crushed sometimes beyond consolation by truly trivial things which they should have learned to take in stride years earlier.
Personally, I’m amazed that I ever made it to adulthood considering how awful my childhood was. Geez, I can’t even begin to count the number of times I played Duck, Duck, Goose and was never picked to run like an idiot around the circle. Yes, I’m sure my social and emotional growth was forever stunted because of it. But thank God the children of today will never have to endure ridicule of that magnitude ever again because Duck, Duck, Goose is one of those dastardly, psychologically scarring games that has been outlawed by forward thinking educational gurus.
And gosh I’m afraid to even consider how much brighter I’d be today if only my teachers had left me alone so that I could discover how in the heck to work with fractions as opposed to being shown how to actually use the proportional things. I’m also positive that I could have one day gotten a job at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory if only my teachers had just let me be when I was trying to figure out if I really could get the daylights shocked out of me by sticking a pair of scissors into an electrical outlet.
But apparently I didn’t need guidance back when I was growing up. No, all I really needed was to hear someone to say, “Wow, you are so special” and I'd have been absolutely fine.