Graduates: don't fear failure
May 26, 2022
“Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.”
~ F. Scott Fitzgerald
This weekend, the seniors of Carbon County School District No. 2 will walk into their respective schools for the final time as students and walk out as graduates. Among this year’s graduates, we have future teachers, linemen, nurses and mechanics.
If there is one thing I would impart to the Class of 2022—or any graduating class for that matter—it would be this; do not be afraid to fail. This may seem a generic bit of advice, maybe even overplayed considering the amount of quotes one can find on the internet about failure. My point still stands; do not be afraid to fail. You failing at something will not mean the end of the world.
Unless, of course, you’re the one person who can stop a gigantic meteor from colliding with the Earth or a computer virus which would wipe out the world banking system.
Our fear of failure can sometimes be tied to our desire for perfection. How often do we want to do something perfect the first time? When my brother, Garry, and I were growing up he had a phase where he drew nothing but dinosaurs. These were really awesome dinosaurs, too. He was in the 1st or 2nd grade and these drawings looked like they had been done by an older student.
One day, Garry was in the kitchen drawing a dinosaur and the rest of us were in the living room. My brother let out a scream and pounded the kitchen table. Our father ran in to see what was wrong. I wasn’t far behind. Garry told our father he had drawn the back leg of a stegosaurus too fat. Our dad reminded Garry that, on the opposite end of his pencil, was an eraser and all he had to do was erase the leg and draw it again.
I wish I could say I have followed that advice all throughout my life. I could say that, but I would be lying. As far as I know, both my brother and I have continued to expect perfection from ourselves in nearly everything we do. My son now has that same expectation of himself, wanting to do everything perfect the very first time.
The reason I tell the Class of 2022 not to be afraid to fail is because you, inevitably, will fail at something. It could be a test in college, the first time you attempt something new at work or even a post high school relationship. At this point, there’s no telling what you will and won’t do once you go out into the world. The sky’s the limit. With all those opportunities to succeed, however, come those chances to fail.
I’m not saying it will be easy to accept when this happens. Accepting that you failed at something, however, doesn’t make you a failure. What it means is that you, like the rest of us, are human. What is equally as important as accepting that you will, ultimately, fail at something at least once in your life is making sure you don’t set impossible standards for yourself.
Believe me, if you set the bar too high, you will always fail to clear it.
The great artist Salvador Dali once said “Have no fear of perfection - you will never reach it.”
Working at the Saratoga Sun has provided me the opportunity to make many, many public mistakes. While I try to remind myself that there is no such thing as a “perfect” newspaper, finding those mistakes either while I’m uploading the articles to our website or after the paper comes back from the press is never easy. The minor mistakes, such as a misspelled cutline or some transposed letters in a subhead are something I try to shrug off and continue about my day.
I have had my fair share of bigger mistakes and many of those can’t exactly be shrugged off. But, should they stop me from moving forward and trying to do better next time?
As you go out into this world—which seems, in many ways, to be much meaner than the pre-pandemic world—remember that it is okay to fail. As Winston Churchill once said, “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” Remember, also, to give yourself some grace. Grace is probably the most important thing because it is the only way you will be able to learn from a failure rather than let it consume you.
So, I was wrong. There’s not just one thing I want to impart, but two.
Don’t be afraid to fail.
Give yourself some grace.
Go forth, Class of 2022, and carpe the heck out of that diem.