Tag Archiv: failure

Rewarding Risk

What my idea of a robot would look like.

My idea of what a robot should look like.

I was obligated to attend a Lego Robotics tournament all day on Saturday. I confess my viewing of the practice runs for the teams of Boy two and Girl one left me less than enthusiastic. Someone had to explain to me when the Lego robot finished maneuvering whether things went well or not. Since I didn’t get it, I assumed the kids didn’t either.

My fantasies for freezing rain or a last minute illness didn’t materialize, but the kids’ excitement was catching. By the time we got there, it seemed like a nice day. Their eagerness (and my plans to leave them and only watch for the afternoon) had unScrooged me.

To my surprise, the afternoon I thought would be long, proceeded to unfold as a series of revelations to my traditionally low tech self.

Revelation #1:  The place was teaming with grade 4 – 8 kids (including mine) who understood most of what was happening.

Revelation #2: The pedigree of judges and referees giving their time to the event was nothing to sneeze at. People with all kinds of engineering degrees, employed in some of the most prestigious companies in Canada, were there convinced that my kids (and a few others) were the future of Canada’s ability to innovate.

Revelation #3: Nobody there was interested in grooming cookie cutter kids. (One of my biggest frustrations with education today is that inadvertently or not, much of it is designed to spit out kids who don’t think, risk or try new things.) First Lego League (not something I was previously familiar with) is out to reward risk taking, innovation, teamwork . . .

Here’s the list of the core values that teams were marked and rewarded for understanding and exemplifying:

*We are a team.

*We do the work to find solutions with guidance from our coaches and mentors.

*We know our coaches and mentors don’t have all the answers; we learn together.

*We honor the spirit of friendly competition.

*What we discover is more important than what we win.

*We share our experiences with others.

*We display Gracious Professionalism® and Coopertition® in everything we do.

*We have FUN!

(For more on First Lego League, see  http://www.firstlegoleague.org/mission/corevalues#sthash.Z7mZlLR4.dpuf)

 

Revelation # 4: Waiting for the judging results, they cranked up the music and invited the kids to dance. Seventy five or so geeky kids spontaneously dancing (or forming trains with kids they don’t know) to Cotton Eyed Joe and YMCA is a pretty refreshing thing to watch.

Revelation #5: The world is a big place. Some really good things are happening. I stopped short of a one man standing ovation when one of the extremely accomplished speakers commiserated with the kids about failing, starting over, and not understanding why something wasn’t working. How great is that? When a successful adult talks shop with ten year old’s like they’re colleagues in the big world of innovation and design? When someone teaches by example that failed attempts are merely steps on the road to discovery?

Navigating Failure

 

An English Sloop Becalmed Near Shore the Shore.  By Francis Swaine

An English Sloop Becalmed Near Shore the Shore. By Francis Swaine

I have been working up the courage to write about failure. The latest rejection on my fiction novel came. (Thank you again for the social media supports to my efforts.)  I thought of writing lists of all the failures in my life. Maybe numbering them and tacking this latest one on the end. Couldn’t see anything beautiful about it so felt a little tongue tied.

I thought about starting a new blog to write about true, depressing, ugly things, but no. If you fail at beautiful, you can keep trying. If you fail at ugly and depressing .  . . well, it would be hard to get back up after that. (I am not without a practical side in these matters.)

The desire to write about failure is practically burning in me. I have a lot of thoughts and feelings on the subject. Whatever the questions end up being, I’m pretty sure the answers are in tears and laughter. I know this because when I cry, things are better afterwards. Also because when crazy things happen (that have nothing to do with not being able to make your dreams come true) I laugh and afterwards things make more sense.

We were sitting at dinner. Most of us were eating, because that’s what normal people do at dinner. Sort of the reason they sit down I’m told. I have to clarify because while I birthed 3 eaters, I also birthed a stirrer . . . as in someone who stirs things.

I would try to remember what it was she was eating that night that she didn’t like except the list of underappreciated foods to pick from is too long. I’m not a fan of picky eating. The kids can all have one food they hate, everything else, they eat at least a bite of.

After half a meal of stirring, Girl one was getting restless. A bite or two went down the hatch and her idea light went on. “I could be a sword swallower when I grow up,” she said. She took another bite. “Seriously,” she said. “I trained myself on so many things swallowing them whole. I bet I could do it.”

—-

And lastly . . . putting Girl two to bed last night we got to talking about monkeys who apparently don’t leave their trees very often. This led to discussions of a practical matter and a little gem I have to say I did not see coming:

Boy one did that before

Did what?

Peed from a tree.

A long time ago?

A time that was close to today.

Are you kidding me?

No

Thank you

You’re welcome. (Batted eyelashes. Smug and satisfied smile.)

—–

My almost fourteen year old has been peeing from trees. Seriously, failure to publish children’s novel may not be my biggest crisis. I’m not exactly laughing on that one, but it has me good and distracted.

Acts of Courage

David gegen Goliath, by Gebhard Fugel. Early 19th century

David gegen Goliath, by Gebhard Fugel. Early 19th century

 

It came to me the other day that to be happy was sometimes an act of courage. The idea surprised me enough to keep me thinking about courage for days. If being happy can be a bold counter cultural statement about being loved in the face of loud messages that beg to differ, what else might courage look like?

Like my mother before me, there is nothing so comforting in a trial or helpful in a confusion, as a list. A work in progress, but here’s where I’ve come so far.

Acts of courage:

1. To be happy. (i.e. to act as one who is unmistakably beloved and secure in the love)

2. To be hopeful when logical reasons for such sentiment seem lacking. (13.5 years into mothering, no child yet gives a hoot about cleaning their rooms or taking care of possessions, theirs or others. My attempts at book publication repeatedly miss the mark. And yet.)

3. To believe that I can change and become the person I have repeatedly failed to become. (Despite my elite level skills in flippant, sarcastic, and caustic remarks, I will someday be free of those crutches.)

4. To believe that others can change and become the person they dream of becoming. (I build the boxes I put people in too small. The timing of when they rise up to overcoming is not my concern. The least I can do is leave the lids off.)

5. To believe that failure does not define people. Me, or anybody else. (Failure, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. No matter who sees it or says it, apt or not, it remains separate from our value as human beings.)

6. To believe that others are doing the best they can and to make this the underlying premise and starting point for every relationship I have. (I cannot logically believe this 100% of the time, but I cannot see what there would be to lose for acting as if it were true the 5% of the time it isn’t.)

7.  To start each day with no strings attached, a day of new beginnings devoid of the weight of yesterdays dead ends, engine troubles, and thirty car pile ups.

 

That’s as deep as I’ve dug so far. I’m going to mine the hill a little longer in case there’s something I missed that applies to now. Then again, it might be enough of a challenge already.

The failure of success

file1761306949777A friend of mine was once taken with a motivational speaker. The enthusiasm and accompanying propaganda was overwhelming. To silence the onslaught, I agreed to read a book. The message was that success, as measured by making more money, was an achievable goal/sacred duty. Bullet points followed for execution, the result of which would save you and your children from being like them (the mediocre lovers/unsuccessful) and make you one of the great (who followed the bullet points to their destiny of success).

I hated the book. I considered burning it, except it would have caused my friend to buy another. Clarity is easy when it’s someone else’s words on a page.

I was voted most likely to succeed in my high school class. No one was picturing me as mistress of the laundry, master pot scrubber (cooking and other), professional child transporter, duchess of the schedules, former teacher, former secretary, former (you get the idea), and aspiring writer. By most measures, we would have to admit, the voters got it wrong. I have failed to reach the bars one envisions for “the most likely to succeed.”

I am happy. I am doing what I want to do (excepting the part where the publishers fall over themselves trying to buy my work). Frequently, I am so content with my lot in life that I feel waves of guilt not to be enmeshed in more miserable circumstances.

And yet.

Often, I worry I am failing in some important way. I trust myself as a parent/writer/person until I don’t. I’m one of those that holds with God’s promise to allow only as much as we can handle. Anything facing me ought by virtue of its presence give me confidence that I am equal to the task. But often it doesn’t.

A woman I deeply respect wrote yesterday about the rough stretch of road she’s travelling. I was proud of her. I  empathized with her worries of failure and feelings of falling short, but she was struggling, not failing. Courage and love she couldn’t see, poured out of her heart and words.

A few day earlier, another rejection letter on one of my book projects came. Another failure, I felt. So very discouraging, and I may never get it right. Admiring my friend’s unsung walk to help her daughter, has screwed my head on straight again.

Hilaire Beloc, once wrote: “When I am dead, I hope it may be said, his sins were scarlet, but his books were read.”  I’d love to be like Beloc (having my books read and all) but I’d also like to be like my friend. I have no intention of giving up on the books front. But if I can only have one dream or the other, I’ll take the love/courage option and let all the words flitter flutter away like grass. I’ll be who I think I should be and let the chips fall where they may.

With a thousand thanks to my courageous friend of the lonely road.