Monday, August 31, 2015

The Joy of Failure


My favorite part of back-to-school time has always been the new school supplies. I mean I LOVE fresh new school supplies! But mostly I loved the feeling of starting off with a fresh clean new start to something. Anything is possible. New friends. New crushes. Oh, and the learning... ah, the learning.

Remember when learning was fun and exciting and you couldn't get enough? I remember how excited I was to go into third grade because that's when you learned division and cursive! (Thanks Mrs. Rabbit :) ) It didn't even matter if you made a mistake because then you got to use your fresh new pink eraser. We erased so much that we eventually wore out the cap erasers that sat on top of our pencil's eraser.

Well, where has our love for learning gone?

Jessica Lahey has a new book out, The Gift Of Failure, and she has some very interesting things to say about how we are creating kids who are more interested in good grades and not making mistakes then learning and exploring and trying new things. Why? Because what if they fail?

We've turned the love of learning into the love of praise for perfection. Clean sneakers instead of taking on a messy challenge.

While I don't know Jessica personally we share the same agent so I have seen many tweets and articles about this topic lately, and I'm fascinated to dig in. Not just because I have nieces and nephews and other dear kids in my life, but because it's not just a lesson for parenting kids. It's a lesson and challenge to us all to take on failure for the love of learning and the expansion of our small world into a bigger one.

A writer friend and I share the joke that the messier or more ridiculous things get in our lives the more interesting our story will be later. A smooth life leads to a boring biography. If there is no failure, where is the inspiration?

Let's say I'm only about mid-way through my life (hopefully, fingers crossed), I would say my biggest regret so far is that I didn't challenge myself enough. Why? I was afraid of not winning what I thought would be a big bet. Instead I've ventured out only as far as I feel comfortable. A real adventure might lead to unfamiliar challenges, losses, ego blows, humiliation, etc.... Scary!

So of course if the majority of us want to stay safe in a familiar world, we want to keep the kids we love just as enclosed too. But that comes at a big price. They lose that love of learning. They are afraid to fail. They don't get creative, they get in line with everyone else. They please the graders instead of exploring what might be a new path or way of doing things.

This is the perfect time of the year to create a plan (or dare I say map out) what we want to expose our kids to as they start this new grade. And the best way to teach them how to love learning and embrace failure is to show them the way. Being a brave learner ourselves opens up the space to encourage others to venture out as well. And isn't the only true failure in life not living a full one?!

The gift in failure is the adventure along the way, the story to tell when we finally succeed or come close, and the knowledge we gather about what did and didn't work. Failure is not usually fun but the lessons are priceless and give us character and bravery. And keep in mind: Stepford kids are just as creepy as programmed wives.

What will you do this Fall that will bring you the gift of failure? What joy can you find in learning that it's better to fail at something extraordinary then to settle for ordinary? Be brave! Enjoy the failures. I intend to fail at some fun stuff myself :)

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Gentle... Gentle...

Archie Martin
My Sister trains her dogs to take snacks from her hand slowly by coaching them: gentle... gentle. It keeps fingers safe, makes the process more memorable, and sets the tone for how she wants the connection with her furlings to be.

The last couple of years she has taken to using this phrase whenever any of us family-members are teasing too harshly, being too direct, or wearing our crabby-pants. It is usually effective. We back-off and change our tone or add in something nice to recoup from our nastiness.

This has now become a call for how I want all difficult situations to be handled. When I am dealing with anyone I care about I'm practicing and training myself to take a deep breath and see how I want to feed to -or have them feed me- the criticism, bad news, frustration or annoyance.

Can I be more gentle in my tone. My understanding of what they might be going through. The way I want to interact no-matter-what with them. Gentle. Gentle.

Can we be more gentle, sympathetic, and patient when dealing with ourselves and others? It's a worthy trick if we can train ourselves to. And there is the treat of more kindness and calm on the other end. Very rewarding, less ruff, ruff ;)

Thanks Sis! xo