Life lessons: Are you too big to fail?

Life lessons: Are you too big to fail?

I love the way my kids and their generation have taken the word “fail” and shaken all the fear from it. They casually – and regularly – announce “fail” to themselves and each other in a nonchalant and almost joking way.

One kid spills their drink, and the other responds with “fail”. Somebody throws a scrunched up ball of paper into the rubbish and misses, and out it comes again. The word fail means nothing to them. You fail, you try again.

Like much of my kids’ language, including “random” and “peeps”, it has started to filter into my own vocabulary.  The other day I found myself saying “fail” to something that went wrong and I found it quite liberating.

I am still not sure if this is a generational thing or just the beautiful naivety of children. Are we bringing up a generation that is not scared to fail? Or as they grow older will their fear of failure increase? Does our generation have a fear of failure or have we simply developed this as we grow older?

This fear of failure is everywhere. Many people in business are scared to launch a new product due to the fear of failure, or are not prepared to go for that promotion in case they fail, or aren’t prepared to train for that marathon in case they can’t make it.

Our mentor, Peter Cook recently reminded me of a childhood game called Beat the Bus. If you beat the bus you were the Champion of the World – and if you didn’t, you were dead. You would wait at the corner until you saw the bus coming and then run like your life depended on it, just to beat that bus to the bus stop.

If you did beat the bus, you stepped onto the bus, arms raised in triumph, shouting “I am the champion of the world”. If you didn’t you would fall to the ground pretending you were dead. But what would you do next? As a kid you would just pick yourself up, get on the bus and do it all again the next day.

As kids we throw ourselves 100% into everything. We gave it our all and if we didn’t succeed we just tried again the next day.

As adults we have a tendency to hold ourselves back a little bit so if we do fail we have a ready-made excuse – I did not have time, work became too busy, the kids got sick, etc.

Recently I was reading an interview with the South African runner and double-amputee Oscar Pistorius, also known as The Blade Runner, and he recalled what his mother had always said to him: “A loser is not a person who gets involved and ends up in last place. A loser is someone who never gets involved in the first place.”

Imagine what we could all achieve if we took the advice from Pistorious’ mother and got involved.

Run like your life depends on it and if it does not work, just mutter “fail” to yourself in a nonchalant way and try again tomorrow.


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