Thursday, March 6, 2014

Appreciating Failure

Before I'd even fully conceptualized my answer, I realized I was raising my hand to interject during the panel I was on last week. The question was on being a role model for our daughters because we were working moms. I wanted to point out that while I want my children (not just my daughter, by the way) to be proud of my successes, I want them to be proud of the things I learn from my failures too.

It's a concept I remember hearing about in grad school, that companies and individuals with the most long-term success had managed to learn important lessons from failures along the way.

And then...I stopped writing this post. Because admitting failure is hard.

I want to preserve the shiny veneer and say, look, look at me, I'm hugely successful in all that I do. I'm super lucky and blessed and grateful for all of it. I've been fortunate that any fails I've had along the way weren't bad enough to derail me, didn't stop me from moving on to the next thing and trying to achieve my goals.

But that isn't the example I want to show my children. I want them to know that I'm not perfect, that I've struggled with working hard, being patient, waiting my turn. That I've learned when things didn't go my way.

Since the fall, my town has seen three of its teenagers commit suicide. I haven't been connected to any of the families, but I haven't been able to stop thinking about them, especially since the third one is from a Jewish family, so close to my circles. My "lean in" circle, a group of women that have been meeting for about a year now, discussed the stress and pressure that these teens were presumed to be under. Again, I found myself saying that we need to help our children understand that we can survive failure, that we have seen it and beaten it ourselves.

And then Idina Menzel blew it at the Oscars. Her name was flubbed, maybe she had a cold, who knows, but I knew she missed her big note and the performance in total seemed off. Hannah watched with me, and I told her the missed note made me love Idina even more. A day later, she saw Idina's performance with Jimmy Fallon, and heard her hit that big note just fine. She saw her get up, go to work, and get it right this time.

Failing is hard work. Learning to appreciate it when we do fail is even harder.


  1. If I wasn't such a failure I'd have little to write about. :)

  2. I hadn't thought about showing failure to my daughter, but you are right, it is important for us to show that we are not perfect (nobody is), but that we can pick ourselves up after we struggle and move on. On another note, I am sorry to hear about those three teens in your town. I hope my daughter knows when she gets older that I am always there for her to talk to and to help her through the tough times.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Bev. I think the dialogue has to start early, and be consistent. It's not like any of us get much practice being parents, so hopefully we can make our way through it together.