The Facts of Life


So I was lying in bed last night and suddenly a thought came to me. I am not sure why it came, but it did nevertheless. This particular idea was so good that I made a mental bookmark so that I could come back to it at a more appropriate moment, instead of at 4 in the morning when I was trying to fall asleep because I had work in the next day.

This particular thought concerned the spirit of competition and failure particularly as it affects children. More specifically I was thinking about how parents and society seem to want to shield children. Although, I must admit that this idea can apply to any and all loved ones. Now I admit it is mildly strange that I think of this, and I am not sure what provoked the thought; but, it seems that I am constantly hearing new stories about competitive sports being banned in schools or competitions where everyone receives a trophy so that no one feels left out. However, this also applies to bullying and any of the difficult lessons of childhood or life in general.

I understand the general motivation behind things such as this, because I have had to learn my fair share of hard lessons. I lost my father at 24 and have tried and failed at more things than I care to admit. All of these events provided harsh lessons that were not terribly easy to deal with, so I understand why someone would want to prevent a loved one from going through this kind of pain. However, in my 30 years of life I have learned at least 2 things.

1)   Pain is unavoidable. Not everything will go your way and one way or another we all have to learn how to deal with loss and failure.

2)   The measure of a person in not how high they climb, but how often they stood up after being knocked down.

The first of these is true if for no other reason than the fact that we all die. I know this may seem morbid but it is true. Even if everything in life goes your way you will lose loved ones, and eventually you will pass on as well. This is also true because while we may all be equal in the grandest sense of the concept, we are not all equal at everything. Some of us are very skilled athletes, others are brains, and others still have social graces. I do believe that you will eventually find your niche, you must try things in order to find that place for yourself. Unfortunately, this most likely means that you will not succeed a few times before finding what you are truly good at.

The second of my points is true if for no other reason than the fact that we do not all start at the same point on the proverbial ladder. While I do believe that anyone can work hard and achieve whatever they set themselves towards, I must admit that some people are born into life and afforded opportunities that are not available to us all. Keep in mind I am not trying to argue that this is right or wrong, I am simply making an observation. Lets face it we have all probably met at least one douche bag that was in a very advantageous position. Thus, the heights one reaches are not necessarily derivative of one’s character is all I am saying.

In order to understand the second half of the statement, all one needs to do is pick up a history book. The greatest achievements of humankind rarely if ever happened without great cost and trial. The greatest men and women throughout history did not breeze through life. They fought and struggled against all manner of obstacles and refused to be beaten. Their failures and losses did not cause them to give up or give in, but drove them to fight that much harder to achieve what they believed in.

The reason I feel this relates to children so strongly is because during childhood we are at our most resilient. Our patterns of thought and behavior are not so rigid, and we are more open to change and adaptation. Hence, it would seem to be easier to deal with some of life’s harsh lessons during this time in our life. Not only could we manage the failure better, but it could also give us the motivation to try that much harder the next time and make us in to the adults we all want to be. So the next time you decide to try and shield someone you love from one of life’s harsh lessons ask yourself, “ is protecting this person now truly in their best interest in the long run?”.

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2 thoughts on “The Facts of Life

  1. Good piece, man. Completely agree, especially as related to children. That’s why I occasionally whip my son’s butt in games we play. ha ha. Of course, I also try to show him how I beat him and how he can improve.

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  2. You provide excellent points. However, I think you should address the degree of failure that is faced by children. Sports are a good example. These kids are playing pop warner football, not getting drafted into the NFL. Thus, it’s not that big of a deal if they fail at an early age. As you said, they are resilient and will be able to handle it. Once they have conquered these smaller obstacles, they can take on more difficult challenges. By the time they’re adults, they will be mature adults who won’t back down from adversity because they’re afraid of failure. In short, life is hard and it grows harder, so start off light.

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