This morning I proctored a classroom of 5th graders who were meticulously glued to their EOG test booklets and scratch paper that littered their desks. For two and a half hours, I watched as they scribbled to calculate math problems with their freshly sharpened No.2 pencils, and fill in those perfect little circles on their standardized answer sheets. As proctors we were not able to talk, sit down or leave the room. Amid my pacing in and out of the rows of desks, making sure all eyes were on their own test booklets; I noticed a sign at the front of the classroom, taped to the wall above the white board. It read:
Do not worry about failure. Worry about the chances you miss if you don’t even try.
Wow! We have all read signs like this before, but for some reason this morning it really stuck with me. What happens if you don’t try? Well, then there is no opportunity for failure. There is also no opportunity for success. Most of us tend to learn more from our failures than our successes in life. It is the hard times that test us; the times we “fall on our face” that ultimately change us and shape our futures. If we fail at something, we have the option of making it that much better next time. Check that “failure” off your list as a learning occasion. Nevertheless, if we don’t even try then we have absolutely no idea of the abundant chances we are missing out on. Don’t worry about failure.
To put this in elementary terms, compare it to a child who is trying broccoli for the first time. He or she looks at their dinner plate and without tasting it and says, “Eew, I don’t like that.” How many of us who are parents have heard that before?? Well I will tell you that I personally have; about 502+ times! I can also tell you that each time a situation such as this arises, I explain to my kids, “try it, and if you don’t like it that is fine, but you need to try it.” If they try it and express that they still don’t like it, fine again; we will repeat the process next week J BUT, what if they try the broccoli (for the 8th time) and all of a sudden decide they do like it! The past 7 times were “failures”… but now we have success! At this instant, the future holds endless possibilities for enjoying this delicious vegetable….steamed broccoli, roasted broccoli, broccoli stir fry, broccoli soup, chicken and broccoli, etc. Don’t worry about failure.
I can relate this to a situation that I faced previously this year. I was faced with the feat of running a 10K. I have never been a runner. Never even really had the desire to be a runner and have always used other means of exercise to stay in shape. However, this year a handful of my friends were running a 10K. I was hesitant at first. What if I can’t finish? What if I get blisters? What if I trip, fall, hit my head, blackout, need stitches and ruin the whole weekend? How freaking ridiculous is that?!?! BUT, what if I never tried! Well, then I wouldn’t have experienced an amazing weekend, laughter to the point of almost peeing my pants with a fabulous group of women, and not only finishing the race but wanting to do it again! Don’t worry about failure.
Thinking about the next time I find myself faced with the feeling of hesitation (due to my fear of failing), I will redirect my thinking. Thinking more along the lines of, what will I miss out on if I don’t take this opportunity? If I fail, so what?! It is ok and I am sure that I will have learned something from the experience of trying at all. But never even trying seems to be much weaker than trying and failing. Don’t worry about failure.