Failing Does Not Make You A Failure

“Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.” —John Wooden

She’s nine. I have to remember she is just a child. But she is my child. I expect a lot. Do I expect too much? I don’t know. These are the things I do know: I love her, I want her to love herself. I respect her, I want her to respect herself. I want the best for her, I want her to want the best for herself. I want her to always do her best. I want her to recognize when she has not done her best and I want her to learn from that and do better the next time.

Recently, she received a poor grade on a test. I was very upset with this grade. I wanted her to take responsibility for this grade. I wanted her to own it, to learn from it. I wanted her not to be satisfied with it, but for it to motivate her to work harder. I wanted to see her accept accountability for the actions that led to this grade.

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The more I talked to her about the test, the more she kept telling me about her good grades on other work in school. As she kept reminding me about the good grades, I kept reminding her about the negative grade.

You know what they say: “Hind sight is 20/20.” In this situation I missed the perfect opportunity to make my point. I was so busy

Author Lisa McGhan
Author Lisa McGhan

trying to get her to recognize that her grade was poor and she needed to take ownership, that I neglected to tell her WHY it was important to take ownership of this poor grade.

I recognized that her other grades were great, some even outstanding and I let her know I was proud of those grades, but then I went right back to that bad grade. In going back to it, I left out an important part of the conversation.

Taking ownership of the bad grade does not mean that she is a failure.

It does not mean that I don’t think she can do better. Taking ownership is simply being aware that the circumstances behind the less than stellar performance were in her control. She can learn where she went wrong and from there make corrections to those behaviors and study habits in the future, so that she can ultimately put her best foot forward and be proud of her work.

My fear is that her saying, “Let’s not dwell on the bad grade, let’s focus on what I did RIGHT in the other assignments,” is neglecting accountability. I absolutely do not want to diminish the great job she did in other work, but I also don’t want her to miss an opportunity to learn and grow.

I believe our failures and accepting them and being accountable for them, help us to grow. These failures teach us our shortcomings.

I’ve failed so many times in my life. I’ve considered myself a failure. It’s only now that I am figuring out that in failing I’m learning how to succeed. I would love for my daughter and all of my children to learn that lesson much earlier than I did.

Failing at something doesn’t define me, it’s my response to the failure that defines me. Can I accept responsibility for it? Can I learn

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from it? Can I make better decisions and choose actions in the future that will return a more successful outcome?

While I don’t want to overlook my successes, I need to make sure to not hastily dispose of my failures and shortcomings. I almost feel I should embrace them for the learning potential they offer. In the words of Bill Gates, my point is made. “It’s fine to celebrate success, but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.”

I think I may just have to hang that quote on our fridge. It’s a great lesson for each one of us in our family. We will always celebrate successes and hopefully, we will always learn something from our failures.

Native Richmonder, Lisa McGhan is a full time stay at home mother of four. She has been married to her soul mate for 12 years. She is the founder and President of the Children's Heart Foundation Virginia Chapter and works to raise awareness for Congenital Heart Disease. Her new found love is distance running. When not on the computer or in the momvan, she can often be found pounding the pavement.