A while ago, I saw a Michael Jordan poster that had the following quote on it:
“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
That crystallized a sentiment I’ve had for years, and touched on briefly yesterday:
One of the most valuable things in life is failure.
Nobody’s perfect, and only one person in the world can be the best. Everyone, eventually, will fail at something. And the quicker and better someone learns how to deal with that, the better their chances of success in life will be.
Richard Nixon was vice-president of the United States when he first ran for President. He lost. He went home and ran for governor of California, and lost again. Everyone wrote him off. But six years later, he was elected president of the United States.
Ronald Reagan first made his bid for president when he challenged Gerald Ford in 1976. He lost, but he came back to win in 1980.
Bill Clinton was a failure as governor of Arkansas, and was resoundingly turned out of office. He came back, and won. He was an unmitigated disaster at the Democratic National Convention in 1988, but later became the only Democrat to serve two full terms since FDR.
On the other hand, all his life Ted Kennedy has been protected from his own shortcomings. He was caught cheating in college, but it was covered up. He left a woman to drown after he drove his car into the water, but his buddies and connections protected him from the fate that would have befallen any “average” person. He didn’t really confront failure until 1980, when he ran for president on the platform of “I oughta be president.” The American people turned on him in droves. Even today, he’s widely viewed as a joke, a drunken, womanizing, irresponsible old lout who should’ve been put out to pasture 40 years ago.
Paris Hilton has never failed at anything — because she’s never DONE anything. She wafts through life on a cloud of entitlement and privilege, and doesn’t mind that she’s become an international joke — and a dirty one, to boot.
Even “Star Trek” got the message. In “The Wrath Of Khan,” Kirk explains the value of a no-win scenario in a simulation: “How we deal with death is at least as important as how we deal with life.” (A bit overdramatic, but we are talking about William Shatner here.)
This should be intuitively obvious to most people, but a good chunk of them (mostly liberal, and often involved in education) want to “protect” children from learning this harsh reality. They ban competitive sports, outlaw keeping score, and suppress the notion of “failing” grades in the name of “protecting their self-esteem.”
I’ve said it for years: attempting to give someone self-esteem is, in the long run, the most damaging thing you can do to someone. Anything someone else gives you, someone else can take away. The only self-esteem that counts is that which you earn, which you get honestly from your own efforts. “A for effort” is an obscenity.
I’ve failed many times, and the lessons I’ve learned from failures are the most valuable ones I’ve ever learned. Thomas Edison, according to legend, took a thousand times to find just the right filament for his lightbulb. But he didn’t look at that as a string of failures, but successes: he found one way to make a lightbulb, and 999 ways to NOT make a lightbulb.
Absolutely no one is perfect. And even though one person has to be the best at something, they are not perfect at it, either. Failure is one of the absolute certainties in life. It’s not a punishment, it’s a simple reality. And to protect people from failing — by changing the rules, by redefining the game, by simply ignoring the circumstances, or in any of the myriad ways the Nanny Staters have discovered — is to commit a grave crime against them. They are crippling them, making them dependent on outside forces for their own self-image, their own security, their own well-being, their very own lives.