Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Art of Dealing with Failures

The school bus arrives at my house at about 6am every morning, and JJ would be seated at the dining table for breakfast at around 5:30am. Mia and I would wake up at around 6:30am. I would have my oats and eggs at home before leaving for work, and Mia would eat at her office because she has to leave home before the traffic builds up.

Consequently, we don't have frequent breakfasts together as a family. Mia works on alternate Saturdays; whereas I have my cycling sessions and it takes up to at least 9am (much longer when I'm training for longer races). So we make it a point to have a family breakfast session on Sundays. I still run a minimum 21km on Sundays, of course, but I start very early and would usually be home by 8am.

We were seated at a restaurant having our so-called family breakfast last Sunday, and Mia and I were discussing about stuff. Suddenly, JJ said something which I found rather surprising. She said, "I hope I will be as successful as both of you as an adult."

Now before you get the wrong idea, let me hasten to say that a 14-year-old kid may not necessarily define that word "success" the same way an adult might. Kids have a much more simplistic view of life. Success, to them, is not really about having a ton of money, a ridiculously large mansion to live in, a private jet to travel the world. Success can simply mean having a harmonious family, a decent home with enough of the basic needs, time to indulge in hobbies, plus perhaps some extra resources for a vacation every now and then. We certainly have no bank accounts with balances made up of figures with mind-boggling number of zeroes at the back.

Most parents would try very hard to instill the habit of hardwork and discipline in their children from an early age with the aim of achieving a successful life. Success—whether as defined by kids or adults—will require hardwork and a lot of sacrifices to achieve; success almost never happen by accident.

At one time I was somewhat worried for JJ. She seemed a bit lazy and not as hardworking as I would have liked her to be. We had to keep reminding her to study for her exams etc. Thankfully, however, she seemed to have gone through a process of gradual change over the years. These days she needs very minimal supervision. She is quite independent when it comes to her school stuff. She has in her the drive to excel in school. Mia is very happy to see JJ doing well in school, and I'm of course not complaining. But that is not the end of the story.

Ever so often we tend to forget that hardwork, discipline and sacrifices do not always result in success. No—the harsh reality in life is that sometimes no matter how hard you try, you will still fail in the end!

JJ was crying this morning; she was under a lot of stress. She tried to achieve something but she was overwhelmed by the immensity of the task. The sense of hopelessness written all over her face. Never mind the details of her nightmare, but Mia attempted to forge ahead anyway, and I had to butt in and apply my authority. 

It is OK to fail every now and then, because life is not always a bed of roses. All I expect of JJ is for her to try her best, and as long as she'd tried her best, I'm not too overly concerned about the result. Even the most successful people in the world have gone through many failures in their lives too. I want JJ to know that failures are not always a bad thing. But giving up in the face of failures is bad. A little set-back here and there, but we pause to reassess the situation, and then find a solution. Of course it may take a little longer to achieve what we want to achieve, yet the tortoise, remember, outran the hare in the end. Failures can make us stronger and wiser eventually.

I want JJ to know that there will be many, many more failures in her life, and she should learn to deal with them. For I consider that dealing with failures is an art—a skill that parents should develop in their children. Way too often the focus is on instilling hardwork, discipline and sacrifices in children, but the art of dealing with failures is neglected in the upbringing; the skill and determination to pick oneself up after a bad fall and start again. People turn to alcohol, drugs and even suicide when faced with failures and disappointments.

I won't be around forever in JJ's life, but I hope that before my time is up, I will have equipped her with at least the basic of life's virtues so that she will be able to realise her goal of achieving "success" like her daddy and mommy.

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