Wednesday, October 24, 2012

What did you fail at today?

When I was in elementary and middle school, I was deathly afraid of getting bad grades.  Once I got a B (which my mind translated to F) on a test and I cried and cried and cried.

When I got to high school, the stakes became higher. I learned about the triad of dreaded acronymns- GPA, PSAT, and SAT. 

*Shudder shudder shudder* 

I wore them like heavy chains around my heart.  I became even more afraid of failing.  On the outside I showed a smiley faced demeanor and acted like I didn't care too much.  But inside I was fiercely competitive.  School was the one thing that I was always good at.  I studied hard and wasn't happy unless every grade was some sort of A.  I put a lot of pressure on myself because I didn't want to be labeled the dreaded F word: Failure.


This September, for the first time in twenty-seven years, I'm no longer a student.  I'm no longer working for a grade and dreading what someone will label me.   (If you're interested in my decision to drop out of the PhD program, you'll have to wait a big longer.  I'm still reflecting on that whole journey.  That'll be for another post, for another day, for another blog...)

Now that I'm no longer being graded, I feel a loosening of the weights around my heart.  Gone are the scary nightmares where I'm back in school and *gasp* asked to take a ridiculous math exam that I didn't study for.

Now that I'm not being graded anymore, I'm giving myself a free pass.  I'm giving myself permission to fail.

Wait, strike that.  I'm encouraging myself to fail... every day.


Last spring I heard an interview of Sara Blakely, the inventor of Spanx.  (According to Forbes magazine, she's the world's youngest self-made billionaire.)  When I listened to her journey, I was struck by a story she shared about her father.  Every night he would ask his children to name one thing that they failed at that day.  Faced with this question night after night, Sara was encouraged to try to do new things every day. 

She learned not to be afraid of failing.  She also learned that failure didn't happen when things didn't work out.  Failure meant not pushing yourself to try new things, not pushing yourself to do and be more than the day before.

That story planted itself into my heart.

I'm going to fail at something every day.  This way I can stop being afraid of things and grow.