Sunday, September 24, 2017

I Heart Failure


Failure? Really? Don’t we want to gloss over that and talk about success??

Failure: (noun) lack of success; a falling short
Resilience: (noun) an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change
(from: Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 24 Sept. 2017.)

I have meant to write about failure for a few weeks. Then, I found a 2015 article from Ross Morrison McGill’s Teacher’s Toolkit on resilience, titled Resilience Assembly, reposted on Twitter. I thought the piece offered some great advice as well as funny (but effective) visual tools. I especially loved Tom Sherrington's caricatures of student-types. I could see that it would all make great tie-ins to my main topic of failure.

My abs are really hurting me as I sit here typing this. I blame the pain and my need to talk about failure on Ben Booker and his Live to Fail workouts. Blame and thank.

More people are starting to embrace the need to fail. Ben takes it as a requirement to living. What does that really mean?

I wrote a bit about how this relates in education in my blog post Serendipity, where we ended up with the statement: Sometimes you win and sometimes you learn, but either way, you cannot lose.

The old word “lose” is moved in that action statement. You win or learn. You only lose when you do nothing. You have to bounce back. Be resilient.

Quoting Teacher’s Toolkit, 10 phrases to teach or promote resilience are:

  1. “Come on, laugh it off!”
  2. “Don’t let this spoil everything.”
  3. “Let’s take a break!”
  4. “Who have you spoken to about this?”
  5. “I know it looks bad now but you will get through this.”
  6. “What can you learn from this so it doesn’t happen next time?”
  7. “Don’t worry – relax and see what happens!”
  8. “This isn’t the end of the world.”
  9. “You could be right. But have you thought about … ”
  10. “What can we do about this?”

Ben’s muscle-building routine demands you work a muscle until it fails- where both the mind and body can no longer respond. Muscle grows under such controlled stress. The same goes for us. If we have and cultivate resiliency, we can reach higher and higher levels of body, mind and spirit.

Each person can develop a different formula to keep going based on their personality type. As described in Resilience Assembly, teachers can use different encouragements according to the student that is struggling. “Let’s take a break!” “This isn’t the end of the world.” “What can we do about this?” “Don’t worry – relax and see what happens!”

Let’s remember to turn those encouragements on ourselves and demand them from others, as well. “You could be right. But have you thought about … ” “What can you learn from this so it doesn’t happen next time?” “Come on, laugh it off!” “Don’t let this spoil everything.”

Do some of those seem like they wouldn’t work in the adult world? If they do, we’re not doing enough to embrace the need for, or impossibility of avoiding, failure. If we can’t apply these sentences to our everyday world, from personal to professional and on to societal, we’ll not reach out as far as we could. We’ll try to protect ourselves to the exclusion of real growth and change.

I titled this essay “I Heart Failure”. Despite myself wanting it to be different:

I see that failure is at the heart of everything.

I’d love to be perfect. I’d love to never screw up. But the only way for that to happen is if I just stop doing anything. That’s not really living. By embracing failure, our hearts can grow. We can experience more. We can do more. We can be more.

Together.

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