The Desire to Fail
My husband asked me the other day if a particular student had talent. I paused for a moment, because the question had never occurred to me. “She has desire. And that’s more important” is what I told him.
And it is. Most of the kids I have taught over the years who appear to be extremely gifted are usually a huge pain in the ass. No joking. I’ve always said that I would rather spend my time teaching a child that has to work harder to achieve things because then they do. Most kids (not all kids) whom things come very easily to try less and expect more.
The question is why?
Lately, I’ve been watching my very own monster be tormented by being unable to get what she wants instantly. What’s that Mommy? I can’t climb on the dining room table and attempt to throw myself to my death? Tantrum. What’s that Mommy? I can’t use the dog’s head and a rawhide bone for drum practice? Tantrum. What’s that Mommy? I can’t stab myself in the ear with a pencil? Tantrum…..and then I’ll try a crayon.
And you know what happens after the tantrum? She fucking tries again. And again.
Which made me realize something. Failure is the biggest motivator. Achievement is the biggest reassurance, which is also important, but failure creates an incredible resolve to do better, try again and get it the next time.
I remember a particular adjudicator from a vocal competition that I’ve had to endure not once, but twice. And every time she would address me, I seriously wanted to curb stomp her. She made me feel like a total loser. And you know what? She pissed me off enough that I finally deciphered her comments and it forced me to figure some shit out. I think I did it to spite her. Sometimes I think about her, and am so grateful that she was such a bitch. Because in the end my failure helped me to achieve.
I worry for our kids. I worry that through our love for them we have created an environment where mediocracy is good enough because we’re afraid to let them fail. I’m afraid we’re taking the desire to be awesome away because they get a medal just for playing. I’m afraid that we only push the kids with “talent” because we only value “success”.
But I value failure. And tears of frustration. And hard work. And kids who get pissed off at me for making them try harder and do better.
So don’t worry if your kids lack talent. Worry if they lack desire.