Hope and Failing

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My 12 year old nephew started running on his school’s cross country team a few weeks ago.  Most of my family lives in a small town where 6th through 12th grade share the same school, and this year they decided that the 6th graders would be allowed to join the High School Cross Country team.  Amazing opportunity for a 12 year old 6th grader!  He is so excited to race – and my brother and I are probably even more excited for him (escpecially since we were both runners in high school and college – oh, if I only knew then what I know now about training properly).

Well, he had three days of practice and the coach decided to let him race in the first race of the season the following day – 3 miles, a long way for a 12 year old who just started running formally a few days ago.  I guess my brother as well as his coach discussed pacing, and not going out too fast, etc. with him; however, my nephew was beyond excited for his first race.  The story goes that when the gun went off, he ran as hard as he could with the race leaders.  He was exhausted by halfway, and his coach, kudos to him for making this call, pulled him off the course.  My nephew was disappointed of course, but understood he had made a “tactical” error in the race and that he would learn how to pace properly in future races.  He had failed, but was also very hopeful that he could overcome his mistakes and have success in the future.  What an awesome experience for him to have!  Failing is so vital to our development and I wonder why so many people in our society these days don’t want kids to experience failure.

Well, it happens that I stumbled upon this great lecture by a researcher and college professor, Brene Brown, talking about Hope and Failure  www.youtube.com/watch?v=JJo4qXbz4G4

I think that all parents really need to listen to this.  About 9 1/2 minutes into this, she says “Hope is a function of struggle.”  Basically, research shows a direct relationship between high levels of hope and more experiences of failure (yes, the more times we have failed, the greater it seems our hope).  Learning how to persevere through failure, gives people a greater ability to hope.  It makes you wonder what future generations will be like now that our society is trying to take “failure” or the perception of failure out of school or kids’ sports – ie. the everyone gets a trophy mentally, or every game ends in a tie, or no one gets an “F” in class.  Will this lead to a generation without hope?

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