A student in my high school history class handed me a note instead of the writing assignment that was due. It said, “Please excuse Alexandra from her homework. Our spell check isn’t working.” I froze. Is this a joke? It didn’t seem like it. But how could this be serious? At the end of the school day, I called home. Her father confirmed that this was a legitimate note and that he didn’t want his daughter to turn in work with spelling mistakes because it might hurt her grade. Stunned, I said, “ok,” and ended the call.
Some of the best lessons we ever learn we learn from our mistakes, failures, and tough times, for as they say, “The error of the past is the wisdom of the future.”
So what is a mistake? What is adversity?
I look at mistakes and adversity as little lessons that are sent to us. When we make a mistake or are presented with adversity, we have three choices:
- We can allow it to discourage us.
- We can ignore it completely.
- Or we can learn from it.
Of these three choices, only the third holds the possibility of future success. The father in the story above robbed his daughter of the experience of learning from her mistake.
The most successful people know how to make mistakes. Let’s be honest – most of us are afraid of making mistakes or falling short. And because of that, we avoid taking risks. This is especially true for children. Sometimes we try not to make little mistakes like offering up a wrong answer in class, and other times we try not to fall short, like going out for a team or auditioning for a play. But trying to avoid making mistakes or falling short is like trying to not breath; sooner or later you have to.
If we consider mistakes or struggles as opportunities to learn something, then they are not final or fatal. In fact they are a necessary step in the growth process.
Keeping this in mind: The question should never be “will I fail” but instead, “will I use what I have learned to make myself better?”
This leads to three important lessons parents can help their children learn:
- Don’t allow a mistake to prevent you from dreaming big. Big mistakes can knock the wind out of us. They can freeze us with fear and make us cut our dreams short. But only we can allow mistakes to clip our wings.
- Consider adversity as a valuable tool for future success. Many of the most valuable lessons in life are learned from the mistakes we make. Adversity teaches us the best lessons in life.
- Never give up. No matter how hard a blow life gives you, if you persevere, you will be successful in the end. Thomas Edison had a great attitude about perseverance. He said, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”
No matter who you are, your inevitable adversity is the best teacher that can help guide us to a brighter future.
As parents, we generally know how to encourage our kids to chase their dreams, try hard, never give up, and persevere. But too often we don’t understand or aren’t able to help our kids learn from adversity. It’s just so hard to watch our kids struggle. But If they can’t learn how to learn from failure, they will be destined to live somewhat mediocre lives. But if they can fail and fail well, the sky’s the limit.