Failure is the only way you learn; Winning doesn’t teach you shit.

Many of you may remember a time when there was a clear distinction between winning and losing. Those who participated in sports know that the winners would get a trophy, while the other kid’s got a pat on the back and, “Better luck next year.” I distinctly recall many instances as a child where I competed in an activity and lost, and it wasn’t a delightful feeling. Nobody likes to lose; it sucks. However, around the end of the twentieth century, a shift in how children were treated occurred, and those who implemented those changes felt that they would solve the problem of how kids felt about activities in which they participated.
In the Fall of 1998, I participated in a basketball league sponsored by the Science Department at the University of Arizona. Our team had fun, but was only able to muster up one win during the regular season, and lost handily in the first round of the playoffs. The championship game was held at McKale Center, and after the game was over, something unusual happened. I, along with the rest of my teammates, received “participation” trophies, which were almost identical with the trophies received by the championship teams. I didn’t understand it back then, but in a way, it seemed like a condescending way of saying, “Good job, son. You and your team sucked this season, but congratulations on trying anyways.”
Although this may seem like a great way to boost a child’s self-esteem, all it does is shield them from the harsh reality that there are winners and losers in life.

Ask yourself a question: What have you learned from winning? Can you think of one vital life lesson that came from the feeling of winning? Most likely, your answer is somewhere along the line of, “it feels good.” Yes, it does feel good, but so does masturbation; not exactly something you can utilize as wisdom. Every victory in life has its scars to go along with it. And where do those scars come from? Failure, and the hard work that is put forth in-between failures. Without failure, growth is impossible.
This applies to many other aspects of childhood, especially in education. While I’m sure the administrators who passed the No Child Left Behind Act had the greatest intentions, all it has done is lowered the standards that children are required to reach. It has forced schools to find loopholes to get students to pass in order to avoid punishment from the federal government. A large percentage of students are making their way through school without knowing the truth about their skills.
I’m not trying to preach this to you; I know this from experience. The best example is to compare my high school experience to one of my relatives. I have been blessed with a gifted intellect, and the standardized tests I took always reflected that. In my district, a student needed 20 credits to graduate; by the time I reached my Senior year, I had seven-and-a-half. Seriously. Which is probably why I dropped out two weeks into the school year. A year of working dead-end jobs, I went to a testing center to get my GED, or known by my friends colloquially as, “The Best $50 I Ever Spent.” My relative, on the other hand, went through all the motions and received their diploma the four-year way. They were shocked, I’m sure, to find out they didn’t test out of ANY of the placement tests at the community college where we both studied. With all the emphasis on being prepared for college, wouldn’t it make sense that a graduate from high school should have the skill set necessary to transition to the next level seamlessly?
Does this mean I am smarter than they are? Absolutely not. The problem is two-fold: standardized tests put students in a vacuum, stifling individuals from realizing their true potential, and more importantly, when enforced improperly, they shield kids that should probably fail from doing so, sending them into a world unprepared for the stiff kick to the teeth they’re about to receive.
What happens when individuals are not exposed to the character-building sensations of failure? Look around sometime at the sense of entitlement that has infected so many people these days. “I never failed at anything growing up; everything should be easy for me,” is practically stamped on their smug faces. Fortunately, life doesn’t give a shit what one is prepared for. On the other end of the spectrum, we are seeing an entire generation of people who are too scared to try anything out of fear of being judged or labeled as a loser/failure. This creates a vicious circle of self-doubt that leaks into other aspects of one’s life.
Is there a solution to this problem? Yes, and it’s a simple one: there’s nothing wrong with failure, so don’t be afraid of it happening. This starts in the home at a young age. Parents, allow your children to fail; it’s not a death sentence. Allow them the freedom to choose activities that they enjoy, and encourage them to do their best no matter what they do. For the teens, find something you love to learn about, and immerse yourself in it. See a hot guy/girl that you want to ask out? Go for it. They said no? Who the fuck cares? Everyone gets rejected; it’s a part of life. Be bold, try things.
This goes for everyone: What do you do if you fail? Don’t beat yourself up, see what areas you can improve, and keep trying. The most important thing to remember is to enjoy the process; if you can’t then you’re involved in the wrong activity. Success and failure don’t make any difference to the quality of a human being. If you succeed, enjoy it, then move on to the next task; failing will only make you stronger and more prepared to try again. Looking at it from this perspective, no matter what, you’ve already won. Trust me, the world is much better off with character-engendered failures than a population full of empty winners.

An Introduction/The Lost Connection

Greetings, readers! Welcome to what should be an entertaining and enlightening experience as I share my thoughts and polish them into powerful missives that can have a profound affect on those who read them.  This first post is something I wrote over a year ago, and should give an indication of what I plan to do with this blog.  Enjoy.

The Lost Connection

 
With all of the advancements in communication technology, the world seems to be just as connected as ever.  This has certainly made staying in touch with one another much simpler, especially for those who are separated from their loved ones for extended periods of time.  I’m sure there are many spouses of U.S. soldiers deployed overseas who sleep better at night not having to wait for letters or telegrams from them.  But despite our ability to talk to anyone, anytime, anywhere, as time goes on, we seem to be losing the connection with those that are around us every day.  Text messages flow throughout our lives as our primary source of communication, and it wouldn’t shock me if there were a few kids out there that don’t know their phones actually ring.  The ability to hold multiple conversations at once renders people to keep dialogue short and simple, with little feeling or thought put into their words.  To make matters worse, the element of trust has deteriorated rapidly.  I can tell you countless instances where envious or suspicious friends and family members bombard others with tab-keeping messages and phone calls.
“What are you doing?” “Who are you with?” “Why aren’t you home yet?” “ WHO THE FUCK IS SHE?!?!”
Now, I’m all for technology. I use it quite a bit in order to keep up with friends and family here in Tucson, in various parts of the country, and even Canada.  But I also grew up during a time where we didn’t have any of this, and I can still enjoy a wonderful conversation at the most basic level.  I thoroughly enjoy being able to connect with someone. Not ‘connect’ with someone in a spiritual or romantic way, but to be vulnerable to a friend, and to be able to share life experiences without trying to impress or influence them.  Sharing with the primary purpose of connecting with someone, and to have that gesture reciprocated.
The perfect example happened recently when I met a friend for tea.  We had not seen each other in a while, so we were both looking forward to catching up.  Plus, meeting someone over tea is probably the most cultured, adult thing I have ever done in my life, and I’m always looking for opportunities to expand my horizons.  The conversation lasted about 90 minutes, and it was possibly the most intriguing, profound, and fun time I have had in a long time.  It was a real throwback compared to most encounters with friends I have now. My friend and I shared stories of our past, our present, and plans for the future. There wasn’t a hint of ego in the room, no facades put up.  A connection was made, a connection that I feel is being lost in our society as a whole.  So much emphasis is put on avoiding pain that we are losing our ability to open up, to take risks, and most importantly, to BE HUMAN.
You don’t have to be the best of friends to connect with someone, nor do you have to be romantically involved to share with someone.  My biggest issue with the world today is no one trusts anyone anymore.  I have lost many friends, mostly female, all because they had significant others who saw me as a threat, and I’m certain there are many others who can relate.  My friend is an attractive, happily married woman around my age; it doesn’t mean I have a desire to be with her. I encourage all who read this who may struggle with letting your guard down to give it a shot, especially over tea.