Tag Archives: Learn

Failing to Win

All serious daring starts from within.

-Eudora Welty

Many kids attend some type of leadership training when they are in junior high or high school or college.  I always loved these retreats. In the dictionary, it says to lead is to be “in command” or “to guide someone or take someone somewhere”.

Does the “where” have to be physical? 

Does the leading have to be linked to accomplishment and success?

Think of Jesus.  He was a leader.  He led us to the cross.  Hmmm…success?  Now we know the rest of the story but if we didn’t know about Easter, was He a failure or a success in life?  What about Martin Luther King?  He led us to turmoil and conflict and he was murdered.  Success?  Of course, now we know his legacy but do you think he was familiar with failure? 

The dictionary didn’t say where you were leading someone…it didn’t say you are leading them to climb the mountain or to win the race or to be loved by everyone.  It said you are leading them somewhere.  Can that somewhere be intellectual or emotional or spiritual? 

When I think of great leaders in my life, I don’t immediately go to junior high basketball coach.  Our society tends to focus on sports and many leaders are born on the field or in the gym, no doubt.  Politics comes up when we think of leadership too and the military and business.  But I want to talk about a different kind of leader. 

I want to talk about teachers.  After all, we are all teachers.  We teach by example every day.  

I remember hearing a quote once that a doctor has the ability to save a life one person at a time but a teacher has the chance to save 30 lives at a time.  If they have the power to save lives, what else do they have the power to do?   Really.  It’s that serious. 

I had an amazing teacher in 4th grade.  He was demanding and funny and creative and kind.  He taught 3rd, 4th and 5th grades together and he pushed all sorts of limits.  It was the 70’s so you can imagine, we were trying all kinds of experimental things including, school meetings in the new “pod” which was really groovy.  He was especially cool to the kids.  He made a little clay figure like “Mr. Bill” on Saturday Night Live and “Mr. Bill” would have all sorts of classroom adventures.  He loved to read to us out loud even though we could read ourselves. One time, he read The Amityville Horror to us (so scary!).   He was always cutting edge and unique and out of the box.  I’m sure he was pushing the administrator’s buttons constantly.  He sang, he danced, and he laughed a lot.  I can imagine him laughing now.  He was engaged.  He loved learning and he loved teaching.  He made school come alive for me and for many other kids. 

On my first test in his class, I got an F…a  32%.  I was devastated.  I had never gotten anything other than an A. I was crying.  I will never forget what he said to me.  He got on his knees in front of my little chair and he looked right into my eyes.  He said, “I would rather have you get all F’s and be challenged than have you get A’s for the rest of your life and never be challenged.” 

He was a leader.  And he developed his students into leaders. 

Because of his words, I am not afraid of an F.  I am not afraid of something not working out.  I’m not afraid to try.  I’m not saying I still don’t cry sometimes when I fail, I just know it will be okay.    I’m not saying I don’t hesitate sometimes or second guess myself but I don’t let fear get the best of me.  He led me to acceptance and courage and confidence.  I’m not afraid to ask questions or embarrassed when I don’t know because I realize that’s how I learn.  I think this came from my experience with him.  With each failing try in my life, I have learned something.

I recently heard Kelly Corrigan (LOVE HER!)  give a graduation speech and she told the graduates that in life, it’s not about not failing, it’s about “failing better next time”. 

 Are we concerned more with the A than with the challenge?  Are we trying to be so perfect, we aren’t growing or learning?  Are we demanding perfection of others?

We can give our kids all kinds of experiences on the outside.  They can climb and run and jump and win…but can they fail?  And when they do, do they have a leader near them, a parent, friend, teacher, or relative (you!) that tells them they are great and brilliant and wonderful and important even when they don’t succeed?

You can take all the young people (and you) all over the world, spend gobs of money, hire many trainers and still not have a leader on your hands.  Because leadership does in fact, start within.  Turns out what’s best for your kids has nothing to do with money or external experiences.  It is about internal strength.  How ironic.  Winning is about failing…early and often. 

Maybe we should ask teachers before we hire them, “How many times have you failed?”  Then we may be able to tell if we are dealing with a leader. 

What about you…fail much?

Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.

Winston Churchill

 
©2011 Sue Bidstrup, Great Big Yes™ All Rights Reserved