Everyone’s talking about the Varsity Blues scandal. In a nutshell, it’s parents paying to cheat their kid’s way into college. I’m a parent , and I want to see my children have wildly happy and successful lives, but I still sent my child to school to fail.Back to the nutshell, he was unprepared for a big test. Yes, he studied, but only for a limited time the two nights before the exam, The weeks leading up, it didn’t cross his mind to study when it wasn’t for a reason, like a test looming in the immediate future.Trust me, his grade will be painful.Aren’t I a good parent because now my kid can learn from their failure? Sure. Great. I hope that this is the lesson that changes his trajectory. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. There are hundreds if not thousands of articles written about the power of failure. He should read all of them and so should you.However, this isn’t one of them.
Let’s talk about what takes to let someone fail – to resist the swoop.
You know that feeling when all you want to do is to swoop in and save someone from their shortcomings? Could be that it’s because you don’t want them to experience failure or maybe it’s because you’re worried how you’ll look if they fail. Either way, the struggle is real.
How do you resist the urge to swoop in and save someone from failure?
Remind yourself: There are few circumstances in life where failure is literally fatal
You can swoop, but chances are, even if the person you want to save fails, they’ll survive. It may hurt, be embarrassing
, set them back or lower their confidence but it doesn’t have to be the end of their story.
Don’t forget : Failing doesn’t mean you’re a failure
My son failed, and he came home and told me he’s a failure. Nope. He’s not. Failing is an event; failure is not a way of being. While you hold yourself back from swooping in, tell them this phrase: Failing doesn’t make you a failure. Say it out loud and mean it.
Embrace the Truth: People need to find their own way
As leaders, we’re tempted to create a trail for someone to follow that will keep them safe, on the path, and help (ok, force) them to successfully cross the finish line. When we do that, we omit learning and lose sight of the fact that there’s more than one way to get something done. Choose to support, suggest, and then step back. There is not one path to happily ever after
Guess what? No one is amazing at everything Stop focusing on failures
. If that’s all you see when you look at your child, colleague or team members, you’re blinding yourself to the good. Want to avoid the swoop? Purposefully look for the strength that may be momentarily hidden beneath the struggle. “Let them fail, let them struggle, let them be disappointed… and get stronger.” ~ Alli Polin
Your job: Teach them resilience
Reach out your hand and help them up instead of tethering them to you as if that’s the only way they can succeed. When someone fails, you become a resilience coach. You didn’t save them, but you can remind them what you do after you fail – you get up and try again.
Start with you: Model risk-taking and preparation
Be a role model who doesn’t play it small. Be bold in your actions and thorough in your planning. If they see you winging it or prioritizing mindless tasks over those that matter, that’s what they’ll do too. Our mantra: Be your best and do the best you can today and make it a tad better than yesterday. ~ Alli Polin
Learn together: Prioritize post-mortem
You resisted jumping in to save them, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t facilitate the learning. Sometimes, after a failure, the temptation is to pretend it never happened; they feel embarrassed, shocked, ashamed. Lessons ignored are lessons lost. The key is to learn from it and change. Don’t berate someone when they fail and care about them enough to prioritize the post-mortem even when it makes them uncomfortable.Related: 10 Alternative Promises to Live Your Best Life
In the end, you can love and support someone until the cows come home, but you can’t control their choices. They only way they’ll learn responsibility is when you let them be responsible and accountable
.Could I have kept my son home from school to study all day and up the likelihood of a pass? Yup. Emailed his teacher, explained he’s struggling and offered other excuses? You bet. Told him that his grade doesn’t matter? I could have but didn’t. Avoiding the swoop doesn’t mean wrapping someone in a warm blanket and giving them milk and cookies while you sing a lullaby to them.As parents, leaders, friends, and partners, we need to be honest with compassion. Give people the room to grow, learn, and change without saving them from themselves
. Frankly, they don’t need saving. If you remember only one thing at the end of this, let it be: Each one of us is naturally creative, resourceful and whole. They’ll survive and so will you.