Monday, January 6, 2014

Failing with a plan - a note to my 8th graders (with thanks to Seth Godlin)

         Did you know that risk taking in most cases is what separates success vs. mediocrity? I don't mean the foolish idiotic risks that people (including teenagers like you)  sometimes take that can cause irreparable harm or, God forbid, physical injury or death. I am talking about reaching a bit more than you normally do. For example, suppose you find an experiment for this year's science fair that interests you but also seems a bit daunting... suppose you walk into your prospective high-school and want to venture onto the b-ball court, or debate club... just to see if you would like it.... suppose you are in Israel and you meet students from our sister school, Ironi Gimel, and they talk to you in Hebrew and you want to show you understand by responding in Hebrew... suppose you want to try out a new dance studio... do you take that risk? 

       Should you take that risk and possibly fail at it? 

       As I told you in the beginning of the year, it's ok to make mistakes... as long as you see them as learning opportunities. That's how you can turn failure into the next opportunity. The famous speaker and blogger, Seth Godin, puts it more eloquently, than I as he writes the following: 

"But what if I fail?"

You will.
The answer to the what if question is, you will.
A better question might be, "after I fail, what then?"
Well, if you've chosen well, after you fail you will be one step closer to succeeding, you will be wiser and stronger and you almost certainly be more respected by all of those that are afraid to try.
The last 15 words are very powerful - "you almost certainly be more respected by all of those that are afraid to try." Case in point is my daughter, Sophie. She has many gifts including the ability to make friends wherever she goes - be it the ski slopes, the beach, the playground, camp, or school. Sometimes "she fails" in that the person to whom she reaches out doesn't reciprocate but it doesn't stop her. She tries again and if she recevies no response she moves on to someone else until she connects. I am constantly telling my wife how impressed with and respected I am of her that she is so confident and comfortable in any setting whereas it requires of me tremendous amounts of energy to "work a room" of strangers - be it talking to the person next to me on the chairlift or party. Yet, Sophie doesn't give up because she has the answer to "after I fail, what then?"
I share this with you now because over the next four weeks, you are embarking on several adventures: the science fair, yearbook, high-school visits, and the Israel trip. Yet, this important lesson and outlook is really for each and every day that we are on this Earth.
So, I ask you... what risk will you take today and if you fail, what then?

Take care,
Mr. M.