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My high school physics teacher was hot.
He was young, handsome, brilliant and charming. The girls swooned, the guys admired.
I’m not sure he could have gotten away with failing us all otherwise.
We were the academic elite. The brainiacs, who were on our way to Ivy Leagues, and distinguished careers in science, medicine, and technology.
He didn’t believe in coddling us like so many of our other teachers had been doing. His tests were brutal – no multiple choice, no regurgitation of our textbook material, nothing familiar at all. We had to apply what we had learned in a completely new and different situation. It was the ultimate test of our comprehension.
High scores were usually about 50%. Most of us were traumatized, having deemed anything lower than a 90% completely unacceptable.
I remember jumping up and down to my first 46%, the lowest score of my entire academic career. I had gotten farthest in solving the test problem, and had the highest score in the class. It was an A+, even though I had gotten more than half of it wrong. (Explaining that to my parents… well that’s a story for another day.)
In that moment, a brand new relationship to challenge and success emerged. And a new definition of what constitutes achievement: the harder the test, the greater the fulfillment.
It’s fun to chronicle triumphs and accomplishments, where we easily and gracefully slide into first. They demonstrate our greatness, our value, our deserving to be loved.
It’s less fun to keep a tally of failures, (which often represents self-punishment, judgment, and repression), as well as the ‘successes’ that were bloody and gruesome.
I would argue that the catalog of failures and ugly battles should be celebrated just as wildly as that of beautiful victories.
Where you have failed is the clearest indicator of your learning edge – that place that lives just outside your comfort zone. It’s usually where you took a risk, went big or dared greatly. THAT is the good stuff, even if the outcome isn’t what you would have chosen.
After a certain age, life rarely hands us 100% opportunities. And if it does, it likely means we are playing it safe.
Why not choose growth as a measure of success, instead of achievement?
What if the Universe didn’t want us to feed our egos by getting it perfectly right, but instead feed our souls by attempting something with no guarantees?
Fulfilling potential always includes failure.
How did YOU fail today?
Share and celebrate.
P.S. I still love physics. Thank you Mr. Romita!