A blue game piece has fallen down. Around it stands groups of red and yellow game pieces.

When I first heard about the notion of valuing both success and failure, I remember thinking, “Why would I ever want to value failure?” At that time in my life, I was very entrenched in the achievement culture. I had the perfect house, great vacations, my children went to great schools, were good athletes, I was PTA president at their school, my husband was the president of his company, etc. There was certainly nothing wrong with those things – but I think that I cared more about how we looked versus who we really were.

Then one day my world came crashing down. One of my kids was in big trouble. It became apparent to me pretty quickly that I had been focusing too much on his achievements and not enough on who he really was and how he was operating. When he could not achieve what we expected, he began to take shortcuts and then eventually gave up. We had all lost sight of what was truly important – effort and integrity.

I was devastated. I felt that I had failed at my most important job – to raise my son to be a man of character.

At that time, I had been in the mindset of many parents today – if my kid feels good he is going to do great things. So I tried to make him feel good; I had to make sure he was on the right soccer team, fit in with the “good” kids at school, made sure he got really good grades, etc. I focused on those sorts of things and didn’t see that my son was unhappy. I chose not to see that he was really struggling and having a difficult time. Failure was not an option, so I put the blinders on.

When we finally recognized what was really going on, I had to change how I was thinking and operating. I had to let go of how we looked, and I had to go get some help. I had to face my failure (and his) and pick up the pieces and try something new.

I’m happy to say that because we had to stop and refocus on what really mattered, things began to change in my family. I took the focus off achievements and instead focused on my own character. In turn, I saw my family members do the same. It was life changing for all of us.

I am grateful for that failure, even though at the time it seemed like the end of the world. I can now see that while our family’s many successes were great, what transformed our lives was that failure. It forced all of us to focus on what is really important – our character.

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