Family Navigator Blog


Fail Better

My husband, stepson and I were sitting around last night talking about his future and our pasts. My stepson will be graduating from high school this year and is still not sure what he wants to do when he graduates. My husband's advice was just do something!

I couldn't agree more. My sage (and woefully unsolicited) advice for him was do something he thinks he might like and don't worry if it doesn't work out because there’s a pretty good chance that it won’t. Then, try something else he thinks he might like to do. Chances are that won’t work either. Do that a few times until he hits on something.

I told him, “Don't worry about failing, because you will. In fact if you don't fail you're probably not living right.”

Failing is a funny thing, we think of it like it's a bad thing but the reality is that every time something doesn't work out or we don't like the way something is going, it hones our ability to make better choices. It improves our judgment. Don't worry about failing. Go ahead, fall on your face. The only real failure there is in life is failing to try.

The conversation got us thinking about careers and change. My husband has been in the military for 28 years now. As a civilian, the only thing I can imagine doing for 28 years is inhale . . .  exhale . . .  inhale . . .  exhale . . . 

My life has been all about change. I’ve had a few careers and lived just about everywhere. When I said this to him, he pointed out that even though he's been with the same organization for 28 years, his life has been all about change too. He may have worked for the same organization for a long time but he has had many careers within it. I hadn't thought of it that way but I can see it, and it’s appealing.

I guess working for the military can be pretty cool. You try new things and just when you to start to get stale you get to try something else. For someone who enjoys and appreciates change and yet also appreciates stability and predictable income, this is heaven-sent. Not only that, if you’re anything like me in that you like to do things that matter or have meaning, there's no better place to be. Military members and their families are each small parts of the greater whole that is the Canadian military. We do good things.

As the three of us sat and chatted, I could see the wheels spinning behind my stepson's eyes. I could see fear there too. The world is his oyster and he can choose to do anything in the world, however, the choosing closes so many doors. What if he picks the wrong thing?

Choosing a military career is a good choice for many reasons. It offers dependable, rewarding, work, opportunity for growth and meaning, as well as a supportive work environment. He could do worse. Still, his father and I will support him the matter what he chooses. My biggest hope for him is that he knows it's okay to choose the “wrong” thing and it’s okay to “fail” and that the worst thing he can do is nothing.

In the immortal words of Samuel Beckett, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”

Question: What was your favourite mistake?


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