The other day I failed at something, and I was really hard on myself about it.
My partner Heidi asked: “What will you say to baby Axel when he eventually fails at something?”
Maybe she is worried that if I am hard on myself will I be hard on Axel.
Or maybe she thinks I can learn to be a little gentler to myself.
These days I really strive for excellence in everything that I do. The problem comes when your skill level is not up to where you think you should be. For me right now it’s sales and storytelling.
So when he fails, I suppose I will tell Axel that he tried really hard, and that effort counts for the most.
I’ll tell him sometimes things don’t work out the way you had planned. He should be used to that by now with all this traveling we do.
I will tell him that it is OK to feel sad and angry and upset for a little while. After a day or so, I wouldn’t want him to dwell too long, and I would point him towards the next thing he is looking forward to.
I will help him think of some of things that he learned, and some of the things that he enjoyed about the experience, even if the result wasn’t what he wanted.
I know he will probably get impatient to be good at stuff. I see it already when he tries to pick up things but doesn’t have the motor skills.
Sometimes when I am coaching and somebody says “I’m not good at X”, I say…“Yet”.
We are all works in progress. It is an illusion to look at somebody and think they are complete or that they have “made it.” Even when people get really successful in one area, they are working on growing in another.
Maybe practice being a good parent will make me a better coach. Or maybe being a coach has prepared me to be a good parent.
Even though I’m a business coach, probably half the time, people simply want encouragement.
Keep Going! I tell them.
When Heidi came to watch me race bikes, that’s what she would cheer: “Keep Going!”
If you are reading this and you need to hear it: Keep going! It’s OK to fail. It is OK to not win your first time out. It’s OK to not be as good yet as you know you can be.
In sports and in board games we are willing to try things out. We are willing to test a new opening or a trick pass. We think creatively to try to gain the upper hand, and sometimes we lose dramatically because of it.
But a lot of times in life, we don’t think of it like a game and we try to play it safe. Or maybe we don’t even know what we are playing for.
How will know you know if you win the day or the job or the relationship? What is your finish line? What is your overall strategy? What are you playing for in the long run? Maybe failing in service of learning is actually a win.
So when Axel fails I’ll just quote Theodore Roosevelt to him: “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming.”
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