That nasty "F" word
Why do we use the “F” word? I hate it. It stops people from going after their dreams. It stymies personal creativity and denies our world of some awesome talent. I wish we’d stop using it. The word “Failure” needs to be removed from our vocabularies and our dictionaries.
Anyone who has witnessed a child’s first two years of life can attest to the remarkable transformation that happens. A baby grows from a helpless infant, not even able to support the weight of their own head, to a walking, talking, opinionated toddler.
One of the biggest accomplishments in that young child’s life was learning to walk. They started by pulling up on objects. Getting off the floor gave them a new perspective on life. They learned to stand, testing their balance, little by little, by letting go. When they were finally ready, they took their first tentative step and almost immediately fell on their bottoms.
A roar of delight erupts. Grandparents are called and every moment is replayed. Video is uploaded to the internet where it will be shared with family and friends. You would think the little guy just broke Usain Bolt’s record.
What follows are attempt, after attempt, after attempt. There will be big falls and small falls along the way. But with persistence, the tike gains confidence and ability and learns to walk. No longer relegated to life on the ground, their world expands and they’re ready for the next challenge. But, perhaps best of all, they inspire others to let go and take their own first step.
At which point in life does trying and falling on your bottom no longer inspire a reason for celebration? At which point in life do we declare that same event as the “F” word?
A child that age doesn’t know the “F” word. All that child knows is that they want to walk. Imagine the same event after we have the “F” word, and all that’s associated with it, ingrained in us.
The child still wants to walk, nothing has changed except they now carry the weight of the “F” word with them.
“I really want to walk,” a baby tells his baby friend.
The baby’s friend shakes his head, “I saw another baby try that once, and they failed. I wouldn’t try that if I were you.”
“But I really, really want to walk!”
“I’m telling you. I saw a baby fall on their bottom and that baby was much bigger than you.”
What’s the baby to do? The baby, despite the advice has decided that he will still try. That deep desire is still there.
One fateful day the baby takes a tentative step and, as expected, falls on his bottom.
“Oh no,” his father says. “Now we’ll have to call everyone and tell them that you failed. You’ve disgraced our family.”
“You didn’t tell anyone you were trying this, did you?” mother asks, wringing her hands.
“Yes,” the baby admits.
“You will be the laughing stock of the daycare. I’m so embarrassed for you. You should never have tried.”
The baby "failed" and is now resigned to stay on the floor. And worst of all, his failure has further reinforced the belief in others that it’s not worth trying.
The story seems preposterous, but try substituting an adult in place of the baby, another goal in place of walking, and it’s probably happened to you. The well-meaning in your life fear for you. They don’t want you to embarrass yourself or get hurt. They'll offer cautionary tales about how other's have failed in the very thing you want to do. But it's up to you to decide your fate.
I’m going to fall on my bottom and see it for what it is - a reason to celebrate, one more step toward accomplishing what I set out to do, an expected milestone. Then I'll fall on my bottom as many times as it takes, I won't let that nasty "F" word stop me. Life on the floor is no life for me.