My son played Little League baseball for the Briarcliffe Robins between the ages of six to eight. He had one of the best coaches a parent could hope for, Coach Larry. Larry was an excellent teacher, patient and pushed his team to get better every day. The kids learned the fundamentals of playing baseball and most important of all had a lot of fun playing the game. Mistakes were treated as learning experiences and as a result the team consistently improved their level of play.
The Robins became one of the better teams in the league and played for the championship game in my son’s third year. The other team was undefeated and heavily favored and eventually won a tight game despite the Robins playing some excellent baseball.
When the game ended both coaches corralled their teams for a post-game talk. If you had just walked up to the field, you would have thought the Robins won the World Series and the other team lost a lopsided contest. The winning coach chastised his players for missing a few balls in the field and letting the Robins stay close. In sharp contrast, the Robins coach praised his players for playing well and trying hard.
I often wonder how the kids on the winning team fared in coming years. Were they afraid of failing after such a poor experience in Little League? Did they learn that anything less than perfection was not good enough? Did they feel like “losers” even though they won the championship?
Failure gets a bad rap in our society. We label people “losers”, push a philosophy of perfection on ourselves and our children, (I recently attended a little league baseball game to hear parents yelling at their kids when they missed a ball).
Failure is an opportunity to learn. Through failure we gain experiences that we could not get in other ways. As infants, we learn to walk by failing our way to success. We take a step and fall down, again and again and again until finally we develop the skill of walking.
Riding a bike, catching a baseball, jumping rope, learning to read or write are all examples of how we fail our way to success.
Approaching failure with the mindset of consistent improvement will reveal the lessons we need to learn to grow from our setbacks and failures. Look at failure as an opportunity to learn, grow and improve.
Failure can give us feedback as to where we stand in the learning process. Failure tells us where we are strong and where we need to improve. If we reframe failure as a necessary part of learning, we can continue to learn and grow.
Avoiding failure seems to be a natural impulse. If you keep doing the same things the same way over and over again and avoid making mistakes or risking failure, your personal growth will suffer. How you view and respond to failure is more important than the actual failure.
Ask yourself, “What can I learn?” or “How can I do better next time?
Follow the Robin’s and Coach Larry’s philosophy of treating mistakes and failure as a learning tool and working on improving to reach your goals in life.