About a year ago, I took my daughter to a Devils game. To be honest, she didn’t seem overly interested in the game. It appeared that she was more excited by the cotton candy and Devil horns. I was extremely surprised when she said at the end of the game “I want to play hockey.” At that point we had only taken her ice skating a handful of times. I told her that I fully supported the idea of her playing hockey but that there were some steps she needed to go through first. She needed to spend this winter improving her skating and starting to learn how to play the game. This past weekend she had her first hockey tournament.
This is not a story about some miraculous discovery of talent that blossomed over the past year. My daughter spends a large amount of time on the ice. Literally, she falls down more than anyone on her team, usually during the handshakes at the end of the game. Her team lost all of their games this past weekend by an average margin of over 10 goals. They did not score once. I loved every minute watching her play! Not because she played great, she didn’t. Not because she gave it everything she had, she didn’t. I loved it because she went out there to pay the price of entry: FAILURE.
This is the thing that stops most people. They don’t want to feel bad or look foolish, so they move on quickly from things that invite failure into their lives. The truth is that failure is the “ante” that we all must put in to play the poker games of life. We must risk failure in order to play. It’s unfortunate that we’ve become so completely risk averse that people don’t want to play unless they’re guaranteed to win. The joy in a “for sure” victory is relatively hollow. It is only in those times where we truly risk failure that we are living fully. Taking the chance to learn from missteps, blunders and shortcomings is a major ingredient of later success. The leap is a prerequisite.
So as you go out into the world today and do whatever it is that makes you feel alive, do it with the joy of a 9 year old girl. One who had such a big smile on her face most of the weekend that no one would have ever known her team lost by large margins. I do not believe that you should want to fail. I just believe that you should be willing to RISK IT!
On the thumb of my left hand, I have a scar that looks something like a horseshoe. It is the result of an accident when I was in sixth grade. My family was putting an addition on our house. We were not wealthy by any stretch, so we had to do much of the work ourselves. My father and I were removing a window from the old part of the house. I’m still not sure what happened but the glass shattered. In a very lucky instantaneous reaction, I cover my face. I felt myself get hit, turned and saw blood.
The one sidenote that I must make about this story is that my father had been known to pass out at the sight of blood. So at that point, I stripped off my t-shirt and started screaming at my father to get away from me. He thought I was mad at him but then I quickly explained that I was bleeding and I didn’t want him to pass out. I ran to the front of the house and got my mother who took me to the hospital for 18 stitches.
I am quite literally scarred for life and I couldn’t be happier that I am. It’s not the accident that I’m happy about. Given the choice I never would want to have a window shatter on top of me. However my reaction to the situation is why that memory creates such a positive feeling about that mark. In a time of crisis, I was able to keep that problem from getting worse by having two people going to the hospital. I was response-able.
In no way do I think that we should go out looking to accumulate scars. However there should be no shame in having them either. They are sign that you were not insulated from life. Life has edges that can cut. It’s very common in today’s world to avoid the edges and play it safe. The problem is that you can’t dull every edge nor anticipate when you’ll get cut. So what happens to someone who has spent a lifetime avoiding those edges and they mistakenly get cut? That wound is catastrophic because they’re not ready to be hurt.
Failure, disappointment, upset, breakups, and breakdowns are all examples of the scars of life. Don’t pursue them but don’t be afraid of them either. Most of the time they are a reminder of who you have become by fighting through them.
Keep fighting through my friends.
When I was young, my Boy Scout troop took a trip to the Statue of Liberty. I’m not sure who talked me into it but a group of us decided to go up to the crown. If you’ve never been there, in order to get up to the crown, you need to take a long spiral staircase. I’ve looked at pictures of the present day stairs and they seem to have improved them. However when I visited, the stairs looked very old and you could see through the steps into “guts” of Lady Liberty. About every fifty feet or so there was a little platform, which I guess was intended for tired people to rest on. For someone who is afraid of heights like me, the climb was bad enough but stopping on that platform was out of the question.
As I was climbing those steps on that day, a thought occurred to me about the worst-case scenario. What if someone fell backwards as you were climbing? We were packed like sardines in this stairwell, if one went we all would go. I felt myself getting slightly dizzy and nauseated. The only thing that made the upward spiral bearable was the fact that I was facing and leaning forward. If I did fall, I would end up face down on the steps but I’d be ok. By the time I finally reached the crown, I only took a cursory glance at the view. As I turned the corner, the realization of my prior fear was fully in front of me. The downward spiral had all of the possibility of falling but now I was facing and leaning in that direction. For my younger self, it was nerve-wracking and scary. I hated every moment of that descent. So much so that I’m surprised that I don’t remember who talked me into going because it was exactly “THAT BAD”.
Downward spirals are scary and nerve-wracking in life as well. Everything seems normal at first but then something puts you just a little off from your climb upward. Then another thing hits you and another, until you are turned around and no longer looking forward toward your goal but backward toward the fall. The staircase is not wavering; it is you. You have taken these little setbacks to mean that you are going to fall. This is not the time to start flailing or grabbing onto people to bring down with you. It is time to take a moment and get some perspective. Breathe!!!
You are not helpless.
- Decide if the crown is worth it. I would have gladly gotten off of that staircase had that been an option.
- If the crown is worth it, then refocus on the crown and take the next forward step.
- Your fear of the fall can be your enemy or your ally. If it causes you to focus on the process and take steps carefully, it is your ally. If it causes you to be nervous and freeze up, then it’s your enemy. Make fear your ally.
- Fall forward! If you’re going to fall (fail), make sure that you gain some ground with that fall. You learn something; pick up new information or even just figure out what doesn’t work.
I wish you all the best on your upward spirals!