There are old home movies of me as a toddler running into a wall. I would stand up and do it again, and again. This has been a long running joke in my family. Recently, while visiting my sister and her precious family, she shared that her youngest son’s pediatrician made an odd statement at a recent appointment, “Well, he’s not afraid to fail.” We laughed at the strangeness of the statement. However, I have thought about it ever since. In the context of my toddlerhood, I wanted the wall to be out of the way. It would not move, but I would keep trying. You could say that I was stubborn. You could say I was cognitively delayed. However, I like to think my pediatrician would say, “She’s not afraid to fail.”
While teaching my children art in their elementary years, the textbook we used included in its introduction an encouragement to parents. It suggested when adults sat to draw, paint, sculpt, they would say, “I can’t” You notice young children never suggest they can’t be artists. They just pick up their art tools and create. There is a sad moment in human development, where we either through self-criticism or fear of others-criticism, stop doing something because we convince ourselves before trying, or without practicing, we can’t do it. The textbook’s encouragement was to avoid the “I can’t” because the children would learn those words with greater ease than the discipline of the art in the lessons presented. What a shame to be a mentor of “I can’t”
Michael Jordan stated, “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I have been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” So many times our fear to fail stands in our way of exploring new talents, new opportunities, and new goals. It is that same fear which convinces us it is safer to not try, than to try and not succeed. Somehow never attempting is a better choice. Ten years ago, wanting to improve my overall fitness, I decided I wanted to run a 5K. I wanted to run a race, but I did not want to run an official 5K until I was in perfect shape. So, I never ran the 5K. The idea of signing up for a race and being unable to actually run it seemed like a failure I was unwilling to accept. So I didn’t run. And although I wanted to do it. I wouldn’t try. Finally, in 2013, I signed up for a race as a part of my Forty by Forty. I trained and I cried. I wanted to give up through the whole process, but I wanted to mark RUN A 5K off my list more. The morning of the race, it was cold and rainy. I stood in line with hundreds of other people and when the gun shot, I began to run. Throughout that run, I allowed defeating thoughts to run through my head. In a shout, I would yell, “YOU WON’T MAKE ME QUIT!!” And although I walked a few times along the way, I ran across the finished line with a personal best time and a resolve to live proudly within the failure. The next year, I trained for and completed a half marathon. The idea of it completely ridiculous. The accomplishment of it hard, but done.
Recently a sweet friend stated, “Is there anything you can’t do?” My response, “Many things, but very few I won’t try.” I want to live a life full of experiences. Experiences which pull me out of my comfort zone. To go to those places, I have determined I must be willing to wear failure like my favorite pair of jeans, with ease and frequency. The world is full of walls I want to move. Many will knock me down. But just like my toddler-self, if I will just keep getting up and pushing them, eventually I will find the ones I can knock over. Failure is but a hiccup, but the attempt, and eventual accomplishment, that is the nectar of life. I want to drink it often.