I don’t get a lot of opportunities to talk about failure. It’s not in my nature. I just about always win.
I mean, I’m a three pointer from a perfect touchdown.
Oh, see? There was a failed analogy…that’s about as bad as I get. Nothing else goes wrong for me.
In reality, if I had to rank myself, I’d say I’m a lieutenant of failure. Sometimes my failures result in anger, embarrassment or downright disappointment and sadness. After getting married, I found my failure can bleed over onto other people I love in less than desirable ways. At some point, though, something changed…at least just a little for the better.
A few years ago I thought I was good at dealing with failure. Going into college my plans were right on track. The plan, since I was ten years old, was to get a scholarship to pay for university and then go on to play pro football. Life was mapped out. Life was simple. I knew exactly what it was supposed to look like. A broken hand and two leg injuries later – plus a rough introduction into the world of politics – and the map of my life was set atop a candle to burn.
After coming up short in the professional football career department, I found I was unprepared in ways I couldn’t even comprehend. Not only did I not know what to do with my life, I had no clue what I wanted to do for a job. I thought I was handling it well. In my eyes, I was floating along and “figuring things out.” Turns out, I was starting to spiral to a much darker version of myself. I resented football and hated even discussing it. Football failed me and in my own mind, it was a joke. I felt like a fool that had bought into a fantasy world sold to me as the end all. It was supposed to be meaningful. At that point, any mention of the sport would trigger a rage inside me and I would constantly snap at people I loved.
It took me months to get to the point where I could even see that I was sitting in a black cloud. To my surprise, Chelsea was still holding my hand. That was where I was lucky. Chelsea became my center point. I found that I could build my new life off of her. It was definitely not an always focused center, but a center to work from nonetheless. I remapped my life based on new values that actually meant something to me. I started to learn what was real.
Since then, I’ve found a career that works for me. I’ve also started my family and have progressively grown it. I’ve been working on expanding in my knowledge and experience of things other than sports. Things I want to pass on to the boys. Things like traveling, natural sightseeing, hiking, camping, hunting, off-roading, fixing stuff…all things I actually don’t know how to do. At all.
This is where new failure comes on a seemingly weekly basis. My teachers have been Google and YouTube for the most part, and not everything can be repeated as easily as it’s shown. If you’ve read some of my recent posts, you’ve seen that we’re doing a lot more outdoorsy experiences lately. One of the things I've discovered is that I am not good at packing food for the family. When I traveled to Yosemite to film bears with my brother a few years back, I packed food that needed boiling water. The only thing missing? A way to boil water. A quick stop at a gas station, and I ate sardines and avocados for the rest of the trip. Since then, I’ve upgraded to packing kielbasa sausages and Gatorade. When bringing along toddlers and a baby, this doesn’t work.
I felt myself get frustrated about not being able to plan meals on the road for the boys. I felt like I wouldn’t be able to pass on a really good skill. Fortunately, I took what I learned from my college “failure.” I looked at everything I was trying to build and realized it was going to take multiple tries, including failed ones, in order to learn. It also might require me accepting help from Chelsea.
This all became more clear recently when a friend asked me what he needed to take his family camping. It felt good to offer useful advice. “You’re definitely going to want to pack an extra set of sippy bottles. I remember when I forgot to do that and it was a disaster.” I realized how much I had learned from my previous failures. Each failure led to an informed change, solidifying my knowledge in the subject I want to teach the boys later on.
I just have to remember my center and what really matters to me.
So my advice to you is this: don’t be afraid to fail. Try, and be prepared to try a whole lot more.
Also, if you’re taking your family out camping, make sure you know where the nearest store is before you get out there and lose cell service. This one time, we went out to the desert and all the melted ice ruined our dinner in the cooler. We didn’t have a camping dinner, but fortunately we did find an In N Out 45 minutes away. Good thing my truck was big enough to sleep in, since we missed our opportunity to set up the tent. See? Failure, learned from.
Maybe I should call them “accidental successes.”