April 09, 2008

How To Deal With Failure


Rocky Balboa: I'd hold you up to say to your mother, "this kid's gonna be the best kid in the world. This kid's gonna be somebody better than anybody I ever knew." And you grew up good and wonderful. It was great just watching you, every day was like a privilege.

Then the time come for you to be your own man and take on the world, and you did. But somewhere along the line, you changed. You stopped being you. You let people stick a finger in your face and tell you you're no good. And when things got hard, you started looking for something to blame, like a big shadow.

Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It's a very mean and nasty place and I don't care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it.

You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain't about how hard ya hit. It's about how hard you can get it and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done!

Now if you know what you're worth then go out and get what you're worth. But ya gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain't where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody!
Cowards do that and that ain't you! You're better than that!
(You can see the clip here.)
Some of you may roll your eyes, but as my friend RWAC will tell you that scene is a great teaching tool. Life is hard. Life can be very good, but it can also be exceptionally rough. As a father one of the most important jobs I have is to teach my children how to deal with failure and how to overcome adversity.

*Unless you are the lead dog the scenery never changes*

Part of me hates that line and part of me hates me for hating it, more on that a different day. The real comment here is that our society expends copious amounts of energy lauding winners. Coaches tell their players that second place is for losers. Commentators made up of former athletes talk about how they managed to overcome adversity to win the championship, gold medal whatever.

Next to no time is spent on those who didn't win. I am a realist. My kids are not always going to be the best, sometimes they are going to lose. So my job is to help them learn from those experiences, teach them how to use that in a positive fashion and not allow them to be overwhelmed by negative energy.

As their daddy I have very clear goals for them. The number one goal is for them to be happy and well adjusted. In my mind that means that they need to learn how to live with themselves so that when the lights go out and they are alone with their thoughts they can close their eyes and feel good about who they are.

Coping with failure doesn't mean that you don't try hard or do your best. If you want to feel good about yourself than it is a moral imperative to go out and try. If you do your best and you fail, well that may not be a great feeling but you know that you put the effort in.

I don't have any illusions that sometimes this philosophy of mine is going to fall short. I have written about my own frustrations with not being good enough. It hurts to come so close and to still fall short. There may be a door or two that needed patching, but I'll never say for certain.

So the trick here is to try and teach them the balance. I want them to go for it. I want them to try hard. I don't want them to just settle, not unless they absolutely have to.

Settling- that is a conversation that the boys and I seem to have a lot lately. What are you willing to do to ensure your happiness. What compromises are you willing to make. What role do your children play. How long do you subjugate your wishes and your desires for them. But again, that is a different post.

My son loves to wrestle with me. We go at it every day. And every day I win. But I am careful about how I win. When he was a little bit younger it used to kill him to lose. He hated it, but over time he has learned the difference between losing a battle and winning the war.

When we finish I often ask him for his thoughts. Tonight he told me that he thinks that eventually he is going to win because I get tired more easily. I was very proud of him. Not only did he not care that I won, but he has begun to notice my weaknesses. It may sound silly, but I love it.

It shows that he is thinking and that is what I want him to do. I want him to focus on the bigger picture and not get caught up in narishkeit. Now he understands why it is important to practice. Now he sees that if he works at it he will succeed.

Of course once I stopped huffing and puffing I went and banged out several sets of push ups. With any luck I should be able to maintain my dominance until I am 50 something. You know us men, the fragile male ego is not nearly ready to lose to my little boy.

Anyway, let's get back to the topic of failure or perhaps we should just call it dealing with adversity. The bottom line here is simple. If the adults in his life don't teach him what do when things get rough, then it is we who have failed and that sort of failure is the kind that I just cannot accept.
(TherapyDoc can take responsibility inspiring this post. Go take a look at her blog and tell her I say hi.)