Family Talk: Allowing the possibility of failure can lead to success
Dr. Brene Brown, highly acclaimed research professor and author, wrote a book entitled "Daring Greatly." The title is based on a passage from a Teddy Roosevelt speech that states, in part:
It is not the critic who counts ... The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs … and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
Brown says this speech holds the key to personal success. We need to “dare greatly” and allow ourselves to be vulnerable. Allow ourselves to fail. And she devotes an entire chapter of her book describing how to do this in the area of parenting. She calls it “wholehearted parenting."
Brown's research is in the field of “shame and vulnerability." She has studied who among us does not feel worthy of love and burdened by shame. She also has studied who among us has overcome those feelings of shame and unworthiness and discovered the overcomers share certain characteristics that make them “wholehearted." Things like:
• They let go of worrying what other people think.
• They let go of perfectionism and the need for certainty.
• They let go of the need to control and to always be “cool.”
Brown's prescription is as simple as it is complex: We parents need to be the kind of adults we want our children to grow up to be. We need to model daring greatly for our kids.
Her prescription strikes a chord within us, doesn't it? We know, in our heart of hearts, we cannot give our kids more than we possess. She says it this way:
If we want our children to love and accept who they are, our job is to love and accept who we are. We can't use fear, shame, blame and judgment in our own lives if we want to raise courageous children. Compassion and connection, the very things that give purpose and meaning to our lives, can only be learned if they are experienced. And our families are our first opportunities to experience these things.
I think I saw an example of this on a TV news program this week. The story was about a young man named Gerald Hodges from Sequin High School in Texas who went out for the swim team. Except, he couldn't swim. He could play basketball, football and soccer, and he probably could have made the high school team in those sports. But, instead, he went out for the swim team. He almost drowned at his freshman tryout. When asked “why?” in the interview, he said, “If I can't handle not being good at something, then how could I consider myself a successful person?” He did, by the way, finally learn to swim, and because he was such a good athlete (and finally learned to swim), he helped his school get to the state championship in his senior year.
I don't know Gerald's parents, but I'm guessing they had something to do with Gerald's wholeheartedness. Gerald is a young man in the arena. Daring greatly. And I'm betting he will be the kind of parent who raises children who dare greatly.
How about you?
Jim Priest is CEO of Sunbeam Family Services and can be reached at email@example.com.