Not Afraid to Fail

August 1, 2011 12:31 am Published by
     Like many sales-related industries, the real estate sales industry is fertile territory for panderers of self help books, tapes, DVD’s, etc, and as such I have become vaguely familiar with the genre. Emphasis on the word “vaguely”, for though I have over the years begun reading many of these books, I confess that I have finished very few. Not because I have issue with the content – to the contrary, I generally find myself nodding in agreement as I read. Rather, many examples of this genre strike me as though they are a re-writing of the ‘Power of Positive Thinking’, written over half a century ago by Norman Vincent Peale. Or, to bring it down to even simpler terms, ‘The Little Engine That Could’.  Remember “I think I can, I think I can I think I can…”? He thought he could, so he did.  Around the same time, Henry Ford touched on a similar principle when he proclaimed, “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right.” A cynic might reasonably be led to believe that the billion dollar industry that is ‘self help’ is more about the billion dollars and less about the help. Nonetheless, without a doubt there are common grains of truth that find themselves recurring throughout these books, including the observation that a limiting factor in many peoples’ struggles to succeed is their fear of failure.
    A good friend of my daughter’s – Tomson – joined his high school swim team this past year. At first glance, one would think that Tomson would be a fine candidate to join any school team: he’s fit, athletic and blessed with a wiry build. However, Tomson had one issue – he couldn’t swim. We’re not talking “maybe he’s not the strongest swimmer on the team” can’t swim. No, we’re talking “call 911, we’ve got a kid drowning” can’t swim. To be perfectly honest, had my daughter been in a similar position I am ashamed to say I may have dissuaded her from trying out for the team for fear she may have failed, be humiliated, and how that failure and humiliation may have affected her. That is, after all, what parenting seems to have become – protecting our kids, as opposed to allowing them to fail even though we know it was our own failures which provided our greatest learning opportunities.
    Fortunately, Tomson didn’t have someone like me to hold him back, and so he joined the team. He attended every practice, and took every opportunity to practice on his own or with the help of other students on the weekends.  I was lucky enough to have attended the first J.F. Ross swim practice, to witness for myself Tomson’s prowess (or lack thereof) in the pool so I could truly appreciate the transformation manifested some three months later at the District 10 swim meet. As luck would have it, a member of a junior boy’s relay team was absent, and called to duty to fill in was none other than Tomson.  Needing to place higher than their arch rival in the relay to ensure an overall team victory, Tomson filled in well enough to allow the team to win gold. Tomson didn’t need the gold medal to prove himself a winner. That was determined the day he attended the first team practice all the way back at the beginning of the swim season.
  Tomson was recognized by his peers by winning the MVP of the swim team. Not because he was the fastest swimmer, for he clearly was not – yet.  What he did display, however, is a key ingredient all winners possess. He did not allow a fear of failure to prevent him from trying. He thought he could, so he did.
Thanks for reading,
Jeff Neumann

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