We are not defined by our failures. We are prepared by them. – Brad Montague
Last night my daughter found an art project on social media that she was dying to do, “Glue Balloon Yarn”. Her enthusiasm for the project was so infectious that she convinced my wife to run out to the store at 7pm to pick up the materials and give it a go.
My initial reaction was to push back because it was getting late on a school night and somehow her projects always end up being my projects. I was tired and not really feeling glue, balloons and yarn. However, I kept quiet because I appreciated her interest in doing something that wasn’t “digital”.
The materials arrived. The project started with great zeal and then the tears came. It wasn’t working to her expectations. It didn’t look like the video. It was hard. She wanted help.
I inserted myself with some good ‘ole Dad advice. “Don’t worry about failing, view this an experiment in learning. Your first try won’t be perfect. You will get better with the next one.”
In the midst of her frustration, she stopped, looked at me through teary eyes and said..”but Dad, I don’t like to fail.”
Somewhere along the way she has adopted a belief that being wrong or failing is bad. I’m sure as a parent I’ve placed pressure on her to perform in school or social situations. In her highly influential brain she has interpreted that as “I’m not acceptable if I don’t get this right”.
Now it’s my duty as a parent to unwind those those thoughts to bring her to a place where she is comfortable with experimenting. Not only is perfection not achievable, it’s paralyzing.
I came across this great video of Sara Blakely talking about dinner conversations with her family growing up. Her Dad would ask the question, “What did you fail at this week?”.
Failure was celebrated and high fives were handed out in recognition of them. Sara goes on to explain that it re-framed her definition of failure. She says, the real failure is in not trying.
Instead of looking at failure as failing, she looked at is a gift. She realized that in every failure there was something to be learned.
In the face of failure, it’s hard not to get bent out of shape. We worry about outside perception rather than inside production. Celebrating our imperfections makes way for pruning and learning.
I choose to celebrate my mistakes and those of others. The challenges of today become preparation for tomorrow. I can’t wait to see what the next yarn ball looks like.