Celebrating Failures

I remember the chaos, hearing people screaming and pushing to get to the exits.

I remember sliding down the airplane safety slide. I thought it was fun.

I was 5, and it was my first trip to Greece. The Olympic Airlines jumbo jet blew a tire during take off. We circled around JFK airport and made an emergency landing. We sat crouched down, holding our knees. I remember taking a peek and looking up at my Mama. She was calm, confident that everything was going to be alright. Her faith guiding her through this unforeseen failure to depart.

I always think about my first airplane ride, when I fly. And I did this summer, as I traveled to Greece with my daughter. Our trip to Greece was a homecoming of sorts for me. I knew it was going to be an emotional journey. It was time for me to heal and reflect on my personal failure; the breakdown of my marriage and divorce.

At times, I feel society is a bit obsessed with failure. The Silicon Valley mantra of “Fail Fast, Fail Often” is one that comes to mind. I think this ideology is misleading. People celebrate everything from failing early to failing quickly to failing cheaply to failing forward — whatever that means.

I also feel we celebrate failure a bit too much. Our learners have become accustomed to failing and celebrating the failure. Many times a player or losing team gets a “participation prize”, a reward for failing. As educators, we constantly tell our learners to embrace it.  “Mistakes are good”, “Failure is our friend”, “Lets celebrate our failed attempts!”.  

I can’t help but wonder, should every failure be celebrated? Are we celebrating the failure or the learning and risk taking? Is there something to celebrate from my personal failure?

I thought about these questions for a long time, a few things did come to mind. While this loosening of attitudes toward failure is without a doubt valuable, we, as educators, really need to be careful that we’re not focusing on the wrong thing. Failure is not our goal. Failure is simply a common byproduct — it’s not the desired end-product. 

The only way that failure becomes useful is if you reflect on it, learn from it. We should be celebrating this learning and risk taking, not the actual failure itself. And yes, there is much to learn from our failed attempts. Most of the learning from our defeat helps us to feel better about being defeated. Coming to terms with it provides us with a coping mechanism for an experience that is naturally and excruciatingly unpleasant.  Accepting it gives us the hope that we can live to see another day; it transforms a loss into a gain, and it increases our resilience as we imagine the possibilities of the future.

As I reflect back on my first plane ride, I can remember the thunderous sound of the plane skidding on the pavement and the smell of fumes. When it finally came to a complete halt, passengers began to clap, whistle and cheer. Were they celebrating the failure of departing? No. They were celebrating the experience of our pilot, the lessons he learned in landing a plane full of passengers. Even in all the chaos, the fear, and the failure of us reaching our destination, I guess there was STILL something to celebrate.

One Word

2017 was an epic FAIL.

There is nothing more devastating than failing at the one thing you hold dear to your heart. Nothing. It changes you, it shakes you. Failure makes you question who you are at your core. What are your values?

As I self reflect, I realize for me, 2017 brought an abundance of soul searching. It’s not a selfish act, to find yourself. Soul searching is the act of turning your attention inward, of focusing on yourself and analyzing who you really are. We soul search when we are faced with a moral dilemma. We soul search when we need to make sense of how we got to where we are today. Soul searching is like accessing a map and checking in to make sure you’re going in a direction that you desire. It can bring about self healing, self respect and higher self esteem. It cancels out self doubts. The more I soul searched the more self confident I became. There was a new found self awareness guiding me through difficult choices & uncharted territories.

love

Each new year, many across the world select one word to focus on. This word is their vehicle for sustaining their motivation & drive. They are hopeful that this word, brings forth a feeling of self fulfillment.

As I was deciding my one word, I thought I would do some research. I’m a self motivated, self directed learner, so researching something is pretty standard. I wanted a word that represents where I am currently in my life. A word that would propel me to new heights & inspire me to become selfless. I surprised myself with how quickly I thought of it! My One Word for 2018 is SELF.

I know what you’re thinking… how selfish of her! She’s self centered and self obsessed! And honestly, you may be right. If there is anything my personal failures of 2017 have taught me is that I need to take care of me. If you don’t care of yourself, how can you take care of others? If you don’t know yourself, your desires, your needs, then how can you reach them?

Your relationship with yourselfsets the tone for every other relationshipyou have (1)

In some ways, it may seem counter-intuitive to learn how to know yourself. Surely that should be a given, right? Not necessarily. It’s our experiences that clearly shape us into the people we are today. This does not mean that we necessarily know who we really are, what we are passionate about, and what we want from life. Since we were young, we’ve developed beliefs and values, some good and some not so good, as a result of our environment and the pressure from society to conform.

When I was younger, I associated academic achievement and fitting into a group as part of my self worth. 2017 taught me about being real. I began last year feeling like an outsider, a fraud. At my worst, I felt as though I did not truly exist. Without a group to neatly “fit” into, I lost my sense of identity. Who am I? What am I working towards? I realized that I have spent much of my adult life working towards what I thought were important life goals, only to find out they did not mean much to me.

This New Year, I am ready. I’m ready to learn more about me, the real me. I’m looking forward to this world of self discovery and excited to better myself in 2018. Will you come with me on this self learning journey?

How well do you know yourself?

P.S. Through my research I found that there are 328 words that have just the prefix “self”. I hope to explore 52 of them this year… one word each week.