When our oldest daughter Emily had a bike wreck, years ago, and broke her collarbone, I wasn’t quite sure which one of us (Em, her father, or me) was in the most pain. If you’re a parent, you understand the phenomenon of feeling your child’s pain – to the point that you’re certain if you could switch places with them, there would be a noticeable relief.
Terrible day, but there were a few positives that stood out.
- My husband… aka dad who blamed the “stupid bike…” thought clearly enough to put ice on the bone. At the ER, they told us that was an excellent move and that it was a very good thing we did so.
- We were new to the area, but on the day we moved in, I had looked up the location of the hospital and library and even done a “run by” for each. As a homeschooling family, I knew we’d be using the library often and with 3 active little girls, I figured it’d just be a good idea to know where the hospital and ER entrance were. Sure enough, the day came and when my husband turned his attention from the cursed bike and ice pack to the car he said, “I don’t even know where the hospital is!” Good thing for the drive by.
- Siblings often taunt, tease, and torment one another – but I’ll never forget the ride to the ER. As Emily was sitting in the back crying, she had a younger sister on each side of her, patting on her and telling her it’d, “It’ll be okay, Emmie. The’y’ll fix you.” I couldn’t help laughing when Em cried, “I know. With a shot!!!” This quieted the youngest sister, Stephany, who stared out the window wide-eyed, wondering if there was any reason they might give her one. But Brittany came through with, “Nuh huh, shots aren’t for bike wrecks.“
Off course, Brittany was right. The doctors and nurses were so sweet to Em – and to her shook up parents, I might add. As we looked at the x-rays, the doctor told us that the bone would actually heal – stronger where it was broken.
Even though this was before I threw myself into the Self Help arena, the words lodged in my mind and they’ve been there since. The entire phrase (and the concept behind it) simply fascinates me: …..stronger where it was broken.
Around the Self Help Bend
What if we took this fascinating phrase around the bend to the area of self help? Can you imagine the repercussions of using and utilizing our failures and mistakes to our advantage?! It would give all new meaning to the make lemonade from lemons concept.
The beautiful thing is, this is exactly what we can, and should do. There are steps we can take to turn our failures into something not just positive but desirable.
We can make make it stronger where it was broken.
What steps must we take, when broken by failure, to ensure that we become strong at the place of weakness?
The first thing we should do, whenever we have failed in anything, is to analyze the reason for the failure. There are certain, vital questions we should ask ourselves:
- Did I contribute to this failure by failing to plan? Naturally, failing to plan is planning to fail – did I fall victim to this mistake?
- Did I simply not pay enough attention to what I was doing?
- Were my priorities out of whack?
- Do I have too much going on in my life right now?
- Have I bitten off more than I can handle?
- What can I learn from this failure – to keep it from repeating itself?!
After my daughter’s bike wreck, she confessed that she had been eating a sugar cookie at the time of the wreck. She vowed to never do anything that would take both hands off of the bike again. She has never eaten a cookie, or anything for that matter, while riding a bike since that day. She has also never had another bike wreck.
Now, that’s not to say she won’t ever have a bike wreck for the rest of her life. BUT, if she keeps her promise to herself, by goodness, she’ll never have another bike wreck caused by eating one of her mom’s iced sugar cookies. By removing one possible cause of failure, she has increased her odds for success greatly.
Can you imagine the amount of success we can invite our way if we were to examine each of our failures in JUST this way? If we were to hold each one accountable by asking, “What caused this?” and “What can I do to prevent this from happening in the future?”
Unfortunately, most of us do the one thing that ensures that we’ll fall flat into the trap again. Possibly over and over again.
We look for someone or something else to place blame on. That puts us in the clear – but it also clears the way for the same failure to happen again. How much better would it be if we CLAIMED our mistakes, dressed them in work clothes and put them to work for us.
I’m certainly not saying it’s easy. Truth be tole, it’s very difficult to admit we messed up; but, as soon as possible after dropping the ball, get your magnifying glass out and try to assess the lessons that can be learned. Face your emotions – such as hurt, anger, anxiety – rather than running from them.
Remember, when we stop learning, we stop living.
At the first of the 2010 baseball season, a new player for the St. Louis Cardinals made an error. He was obviously flustered by the mistake and it showed on his young face. When he walked off the field (after they got the third out), his manager – veteran manager Tony La Russa – met him at the entrance of the dugout and said something to him. Later in the game, a reporter asked him what he told his young player. La Russa said, “I told him, ‘You made a mistake. Keep playing.‘”
He did, in fact, keep playing and went on to become one of the teams’ best players as one of the most outstanding rookies in the league.
La Russa didn’t say, ‘Eh, it was nothing,” but he also didn’t scream and demean the young player. He acknowledged that a mistake had been made and gave the best advice possible: KEEP PLAYING.
The next time you fail, make a mistake, or simply create a spectacular mess of a particular situation (!!!) – acknowledge that you dropped the ball. No one else made you drop the ball – you booted it all by yourself! Then, pose the questions above to yourself and be thankful for the lessons learned.
Self Improvement and self growth can often be found in the same place – at the foot of a flat out failure. Never get so busy feeling guilty, casting blame, or wallowing in self pity that you miss the opportunity to grow.
It’s worth repeating, so I’m going to repeat it: When we stop learning we stop living.