Last Friday was Failure Friday. "Failure Friday?" you say, "Why so negative?" Well, it came out of conversation I had with my pal, Jim. We were talking about why sometimes our kids don't try things because maybe they're anxious about embarrassment, disappointment, judgment, fear, etc. There's a perceived stigma to failing. So we thought, maybe we should do a better job of modeling epic fails and subsequent recoveries. Maybe we should take bigger risks. Maybe we need to laugh at ourselves a little more and blow off when people give us grief rather than ruminate unnecessarily.
So we made a Facebook event for the day in which we encouraged our friends to try on some failure for size--to try big and little things alike and not worry about outcomes. If it didn't pan out, work on not beating oneself up over it. Simply smile and move on to the next thing. And so our friends did just that (THANK YOU all who got their failure on and shared how you turned the situation around or simply accepted the setback for what it was and moved on).
Many of our perceived failures stemmed from not meeting our own expectations. Isn't it funny how we set rules for ourselves and then when we miss the mark, we dress ourselves down? As I failed again and again on Friday, I tried to pick apart why these infractions counted as failure to me. If I'm gonna model something for the kids, I needed to get to the bottom of why we're having this experiment to begin with.
For starters, I didn't celebrate "Failure Friday" with the flourish originally envisioned. My mental checklist was filled with risk-taking bike stunts--descents down steep rocky steps, epic jumps into the river, handstand on my saddle. I wanted to go BIG. All the risk. All. Day. Long. I did none of this. Puke and fever got in the way of not only this dreamy stuff, but also of my normal life duties and expectations. In the end, the kids stepped up and we all rallied. Puke was plucked from my hair and success was realized in new ways for all of us. A win, win, right?
Right. And in the process, I realized that dreamy risk taking stuff I envisioned wasn't exactly the right thing to model. Not because it may or may not yield broken bones. But more because I'm not scared to do those things (I have health insurance and band aids. I can heal). So what vulnerability gets in the way? What can I model for my kids so that they can see me push through my unique slice of real failure...and then recover?
I remember when I first began dating Dave two hundred years ago. He was a PhD candidate and I was not. One of the reactions to our unlikely union was "Are you sure you can keep up with him? Are you sure you're smart enough?" Fighting words. Of course I countered with, "We are equally intelligent," but those thoughts plant seeds and may have motivated the race to see who could get the most degrees. It's fun to write about this now; to pick away at the mental constructs of my own design.
It comes down to this. And I think this is probably it for most of us. I may not know enough. We all like to "know." I may not have the right words; the right pedigree. I may not be enough. And when I'm not enough, I will be judged for not doing something well. We've all seen this haven't we? Think of our professional lives. When a colleague misses the mark, empathy doesn't usually jump to the forefront of our reactions. We judge. In some cases, we are cruel. We rarely say, "Good on you for trying...now what's up for take II?" We rarely lend a hand. Over time, we stop trying ourselves.
Truth is I am enough. And so are you. These limits are of our own making. There is no such thing as perfection. There is such a thing as badly behaved people. They aren't going anywhere and they are likely to judge. It's okay. See it through. Whatever "it" is.