Failure is Your Greatest Teacher

Category: Weekly Columns

Steve Jobs quote about death, failure, and success

No one likes to lose but the irony is that losing is often better for us. I love Bruce Springsteen’s music (hate his politics) and I think he covered this idea so well in “Glory Days” where he sings about the high school baseball star who reflects on those days in high school where he probably “peaked,” along with the cute cheerleader who is now divorced and taking care of her kids, alone.

Failure quote

We all know the stories of the nerds that made it big. They are now the stuff of legends from Silicon Valley to Warren Buffet and more. Going through hurdles and failure simply strengthens our character. The old saw that “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is simply true.

That is why the Helicopter Parent is so damaging to his/her kids. Hovering over and protecting our kids from every bruise and disappointment only delays those lessons that actually empower us to achieve. Standing behind our kids when they’ve messed up at school rather than supporting the teacher does teach our kids a lesson. That mom or dad will rescue them and there are no meaningful consequences for our actions.

Michael Jordan on basketball, success, and life

Sadly, to get political for a moment, we have a president who was raised in an environment where “owning” it and “taking responsibility” weren’t on the school agenda. Consequences are incredible learning tools. By now it’s pretty obvious that Obamacare is not working, but we’re still hearing excuses rather than apologies and meaningful ownership of the problems inherent in it. This is a horrible example for our kids, as is most of the behavior we see coming out of D.C. these days.

But, let’s get away from politics since it only gets me in trouble with those that differ with my views. Right or left, I think we can all agree that today’s generation of children has a rough road ahead of them. Yet, in many quarters, they are coddled and not being taught independence, self-reliance, and the value of hard work. If everyone is getting a handout (a.k.a. entitlement) and everybody wins a trophy, then nobody is learning there really are winners and losers in (real) life!

Blame quote

I really don’t care for conflict. Who does? But, how we resolve the conflicts in our life is yet another character builder. My wife and I are very passionate about our views on our family life. We definitely butt heads with verbal ferocity. She may be smaller than me in size, but she packs a mean (figurative) punch and I never relish engaging her when she’s upset. Yet, most every time we do and come out on the other side, we’re a stronger couple.

Dealing with conflicts at home and work, or at school for our kids, teaches us to resolve our problems versus looking to place blame. What has disturbed so many Americans about our government – both sides – is the blame throwing versus the constructive efforts to resolve differences. Since we can’t control what our elected officials do, we must control what we model for our kids in our homes!

Winston Churchill inspirational quote about success

Here are some basic suggestions to think about and/or implement in your life:

~~ Don’t rescue your kids from every failure.

~~ If they’ve messed up at school, be by their side, but let them face the music. Support them rather than rescue them.

~~ When they mess up at home – literally and figuratively – have the consequences be immediate and don’t relax them because you feel bad for them.

~~ Model how to resolve conflicts by showing a willingness to engage with your spouse or partner to work things out. If you’re a single parent, simply model conflict resolution between yourself and your kid(s). The same clearly holds for dual-parent households.

~~ Yelling is not conflict resolution.

~~ When your child “loses,” be sympathetic but let them lick their wounds and encourage them to get back on the horse and go for it. Hmmm, is that a record: three clichés in one sentence?

Truman Capote quote on failure and success

I think you get the drift of this column, even as I’m drifting from home life to D.C. We all see so many examples of people surmounting failure. People Magazine always has a feature – every issue I believe – showing how an individual has overcome extreme hardships, failure, illness, accidents, or wounds, to become a powerful inspiration for all who encounter them.

My boys saw their dad go through a terrible divorce, saw their mom almost literally disappear from their lives, but have learned to be more resilient just as their dad became more resilient. Yes, I tried to protect them from some of the ugliness of those darks days of divorce, as I “fondly” refer to them, but I didn’t protect them from the truth, especially as they got older. I think they’re strong and better for surviving it, much as I feel the same about myself.

Image with quote about working hard

It’s our choice how we respond to what happens to us. We may not control what happens but we can fully control our response. Make the choice to be better for whatever hardship you may encounter. Teach your children well…

Quote about life lessons

  • jack43

    During the few decades that I spent in the computer biz I taught classes (programming and such) to bridge the gap between consulting gigs. Computers have the nasty habit of emitting an audible signal denoting every error (beep) and students invariably glanced left and right (I suppose to see if anyone else had noticed — of course, they noticed). I repeatedly reminded them that those were “learning opportunities”. After all, if you didn’t make errors, you were doing something you already knew. Of course, most of my students were adults. Children, on the other hand, were rarely embarrassed by their errors. They were, after all, children. Of course they made errors. How else were they going to learn. Thus, I always encouraged my adult students to be childlike in class. Play. Have fun. Learn.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      I still act like a child, @jack43:disqus – lol…

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  • http://moondustwriter.com Leslie Moon

    Wise words Bruce. You can’t win big if you are afraid to fail. I do appreciate your view on owning up to your failures as well.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Thanks @moondustwriter:disqus but what do you mean? I’ve never failed at anything! Lol…