Monday, June 11, 2007

Learning from Failure

Last Friday, I went to take an exam for a class I had been working on through my job. I had been putting quite a bit of time and effort into it in the week leading up tot he exam but really hadn't adequately prepared. It came as no surprise to me that I didn't pass. Although the grade report after the exam siad "non-pass" I knew the reality of the situation. I had failed.

A couple of things stood out to me about this experience. First, I was a little offended by the "non-pass" grade. The report should have said that I failed. After all, I hadn't answered neough of the questions correctly. Why is there a pathological fear in our society of telling someone they have failed? Most of it, I think, has to do with the inflated importance we put on an individual's self-esteem. By avoiding the use of the word failure we think we are helping the individual to not think less of themselves.

The key in dealing with the disappointments that come at us in life is in our attitude. We can either choose to be beaten down by failure or we can choose to succeed in spite of past shortcomings. Thomas Edison said it best when he said "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." In other words, he didn't allow lack of success to deter him from his goals. He learned from his failures and kept on working until he achieved success in whatever he was working on.

As Dads, we need to be setting the example for our kids in how we cope with failures and disappointments. Yes, my kids got to see their dad not succeed at something he had worked at. But what they will also see is that I'm not going to give up and work even harder to make sure the next time I face this same problem that I succeed.

Winston Churchill once said that "Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts." If my children can see courage in me through my failures then the pain of the failures will have all be worthwhile.

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