Don Shomette

People are the Prize

Failure is Just Failure

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UntitledWhen I travel I listen to books on CD. I like history, biography, and especially self help. Recently I heard an extremely well known expert in self-help make this statement…

“Stop looking at your failures as a bad thing.”

This statement struck me as odd, but I didn’t give it much thought. After all, I knew what he was trying to say. Failure can lead to success if you learn from your failure. I get that and totally agree with it. I had every intention of moving on, but then the same message kept popping up in every CD. It was like I couldn’t get away from it. And each time I heard someone talk about failure, it made me feel more and more uneasy so I started to listen very closely.

“A failure is only a failure if you call it a failure.”
“You can’t succeed until you’ve failed.”
“Embracing failure is a key part to success.”
“Celebrate your failures.”

Then I got it. Their message wasn’t that we should learn from our mistakes, avoid making the same ones in the future, and get back up on that horse and try again. Their message was something completely different.

Failure is good.

My first thought went to all the students who failed school this year. I wonder if they or their families would agree.

Do you agree?

I certainly don’t because there is no intrinsic value in failing—none. There never has been and never will be. Failure is a bad thing. And it’s certainly not a prerequisite to success. Just ask the 70% who will be rearrested this year after being released from prison. I don’t think they would see the positive in it.

Now, having said all of this, there is no doubt that good can come from bad. Happens all the time. But it doesn’t come because the person has failed and it’s certainly not automatic. Good things will only come if we add another ingredient.

If we see failure for what it is—something to be corrected instead of celebrating—then we’re more likely to act. By taking action to correct the failure we’re using perseverance. Perseverance is a virtue and all virtues are intrinsically good. Good for the person and good for others. Perseverance is incredibly powerful and changes lives. It keeps you going when you feel like quitting and is a prerequisite for success—not failure!

Chances are you have students who have failed this year. Our goal should be to jump start their perseverance—to get them moving and to keep them moving in the right direction.

Consider doing the following:
1. Reach Out:
If you still have time before school starts, call or visit the student and parents. Let them know that you are there to help. If you don’t tell them otherwise, they may feel as if you think less of them. Let them know that’s not the case and show them that you care with a quick phone call or better yet, a visit.

2. Be the Missing Link:
Failures most often occur not because of something, but because something is missing. Clear direction, the right motivation, proper knowledge, good friends, and the list can go on and on.

3. Be Consistent:
Technology is a great help—use it. Put a reminder on your calendar and set it to remind you every other Tuesday to check on your students. Just a quick face-to-face to make sure they’re doing okay. If you really want to ‘wow’ a student, visit with their teachers beforehand. Then, recite their grades or the comments their teachers are making about their improvement or what still needs to be accomplished. Not only are you giving them a little bit of your day, but now you’re also proving that you’re willing to go the extra distance. Sound like perseverance? You betcha and now they have an example of perseverance—everyone wins!

4. Be There Fully:
When you meet with them, turn everything off and focus only on the student. Be there fully. Look them in the eye, laugh with them, listen to them, let nothing else draw your attention away—what you’re doing is a privilege and not a chore so treat it like one.

5. Create Momentum:
Little successes lead to big successes. Encourage them to keep going forward, even if only day-to-day. Another highly successful program lives by this motto. Just ask anyone who’s completed Alcoholic Anonymous. That difficult journey is one never ending act of perseverance that is measured daily. Sometimes that’s the best we can do.

6. Share in Their Troubles:
What? Are you serious? In the ancient world it was known as joining ‘heart-to-heart’. It means that my miseries are your miseries—that we will share this together. Sharing in someone’s troubles is an act of mercy. The second name of mercy is love and love is the world’s greatest good. Let them know you care.

Finally, a million failures don’t add up to a single success. Failure is just failure, unless it’s followed with effort. So, if you’re going to celebrate anything, celebrate effort.

Author: Don Shomette

Don Shomette is a trainer, speaker, consultant, and owner of People are the Prize, a violence prevention company that helps people to prevent and survive a school attack. He has spent a lifetime working with police officers and principals and is consistently evaluated by those who attend his trainings as one of the best instructors ever. Don challenges, entertains, and helps school personnel to think of preventing violence in a new and positive way.

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