This lesson is perhaps one of the most important of all in my book. I also think too many people don't know how to do it and suffer for it later on.
One big problem in this learning how to fail is the punishment heaped upon you for doing so. Consider getting a failing grade in school: you don't get to take a class just to learn the material. If you fail, parents will punish you, teachers will label you as that slow kid, & you could end up on academic probation or even tossed out of college or grad school. In other words, most people don't have a safe environment in which they can fail without being completely annihilated. If that pressure isn't enough, most people have their own inner voice beating them up for it (smart kids definitely feel this & I speak from personal experience).
When you move further up the totem pole, this pressure to be the best intensifies. If you go to law school, you'll notice a high amount of competition. This continues when you get out into the world as a new grad & as a new lawyer.
"What's bad about never failing?" you may ask. "Doesn't that mean that I'm just a super bad ass who's great at everything?"
Here's the answer: everyone in life is going to fail at something sooner or later. No one is good at everything & sooner or later, you're going to fail at something. If you've failed early in life, you realize that it's not the end of the world if you can't play sports or master Algebra. The world still turns, you can take another path & you can move on. You learn about your strengths and weaknesses.
Plus, it builds character. If you've failed, you are human. You aren't some machine or deity. I think it also makes you more forgiving of others' shortcomings & builds self-awareness.
If you don't fail at anything in life, what happens? You become the kid that commits suicide after getting a B. You're the person whose world shatters over some little inconsequential shortcoming that really means crap when you look at the big picture.
I most definitely have struggled with things & faced failure. For one thing, I'm lousy at sports. Get me in a Phys Ed class & I will humiliate myself. Thank God I had the option of Dance in high school; I loved taking it, though I'd call myself an average dancer. Since we never got to learn any useful life skills in Phys Ed like self-defense or even do something I'm halfway decent at like swimming, I just wasn't interested in being mocked by little bitchy clique girls & jocks.
Smart kids totally & completely feel the pressure not to fail. When I was in high school, I was taking AP Chemistry. This was a class that the teacher even said was the hardest one you could take. I was getting a low grade in it & at the time I was in National Honor Society. Despite the level of difficulty of a class, the group would put you on academic probation if you earned lower than a C. The same thing happened to a friend of mine a couple years before but she was in a different AP class. How about letting me learn the material without that kind of pressure, huh? If I was gifted enough to get in to start with, shouldn't I not have been pressured in that way? AP classes are college level courses & I was still in high school. Geez, it's like going to a restaurant and expecting the server to wipe your mouth for you. Give them a break!
I wasn't even given the option to fail in high school. My whole "smart kid" image was so firmly entrenched that when I was slacking off on an assignment for Latin class, my own classmates were harassing me about it! When I got to college, I decided to deliberately avoid any special academically gifted classes or programs since I felt that incident created way too much pressure on me.
This lack of failure in a safe place keeps people from doing new things & getting out of their comfort zones. I think it's a good thing I had those experiences because it kept me from being suicidal in law school. In fact, I think it's pretty damn good that I never got lower than a C- & did not have the assistance of study aids. I also think not being born to money helps in character building but that's another conversation.
Despite any failures, I've had a lot of success in life & gotten things I wanted. My sister recently told me that I'm the only one in our family that has done something with their life since I got an education & no one else did. Lately, though I've had a fear of being 50 years old & still being in the same boat with respect to my career. I know exactly what I want to do, which I guess is a plus since there are so many people who either don't know or are just settled into something they don't really like or care about.
I told my sister that she's being a mother & a good one at that, which isn't easy to do so she should be proud of that. I'd pick my path over motherhood anytime.
Seems like God & the universe are trying to tell me that it's going to work out but I just need to have faith in the whole thing. How else do you explain my luck with day jobs? Some days, I feel like I've lost my ambition. Then I realize that's only when it comes to anything long term unrelated to my company or the entertainment field. Yeah, I just don't care & in a lot of instances, you can see why. I'm used to having autonomy & being treated like an adult. I'm used to being respected. Why would I be motivated to deal with anyone who's not going to treat me in that way? Would YOU have that motivation? I think my soul would indeed die in that kind of job. I can't approach interviews & the like in the same way as someone who's spent their life working for others, being treated like crap & so on and so forth.
A secret about people working in entertainment: some days, it's very discouraging. There are times when you have no faith at all in things. Some days you want to chuck it all and feel like you're out of your league. You do need a positive outlook to work in this area & most of us ultimately believe in ourselves since that's all we've got. However, that doesn't mean you never feel down. This is where supportive people & one's support network come in.
Perhaps I also feel this way because of two family members being in the hospital under dire straits. It's not anyone I'm super close to: one of these is a relative so remote to me, he may as well be a random subway traveler or a celeb I've got zero connection to. The other is someone who has refused to get help for herself and inflicted excessive pain on loved ones (including children), something I obviously have some very personal feelings & animus about.
I'm not going to either funeral because of travel costs & what would I say?
Really, though I think people should be given some space to fail once in a while. It's too taxing & unfair to turn a mere human into a superman/superwoman. I also think it's just as important as sharing, debate, self-defense training or cooking among other survival skills. Otherwise, it might be you or your loved one jumping off the roof or committing hari-kari after getting a B.
Monday, December 19, 2011
An Important Life Lesson: Learning How to Fail
Posted by Film Co. Lawyer at 11:14 PM
Labels: character, failure, fear of failure, life lessons
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