There’s a line I heard in a podcast recently. It’s a philosophy I am so struck with that I’ve taken to quoting it to my children (whether they want to hear it or not): “There are no failures, only feedback.” This means every mistake we make is not a failure but a learning experience, if we choose to see it correctly. When we blow it, we could choose to wallow in regret and frustration, but what’s the point if instead you can apply your hard-won feedback to future improvements?
I shared the line with Ethan on Saturday, when after weeks of practicing for a piano festival, he played poorly (and by poorly, I mean he forgot entire chunks of his pieces and was fighting back tears by the time he slunk back to his seat next to me in the audience). My heart ached for what he was suffering but I also knew that he could have practiced harder, especially during the last two weeks when he should have really been solidifying his memorization of the music and instead, he chose to do other things with his time. Ethan didn’t want to hear it, but after offering him my hugs, sympathy and unconditional love, I also reminded him that this was a good dose of “feedback” and he should decide what lessons he was meant to learn from the painful experience. He took it better than I thought and he admitted to making bad choices. The next day he was making a chart to help him remember to practice more consistently.
Since I don’t want to be the doctor who will not take her own medicine, I have been accumulating in my mind a list of the non-failures I’ve experienced lately. The feedback has been painful in each of these cases, but lessons learned the hard way are often the most lasting ones.
1. Don’t get cocky.
If your daughter (after months of
2. Resist temptation, especially when it’s disguised in pink bows
If you decide that when you return a borrowed dress to your friend, you’d like to give her girls a whole box full of dress-up outfits to replace the ones they lost in the fire, and you go to Savers and spend an hour filling your cart with satin and velvet and taffeta, don’t, under any circumstances, give in to the impulse to buy a few extra dresses for your own daughter to play with (that is, unless you are fully prepared to watch her turn into a one-woman fashion show and change her outfit every 10 minutes for the next two weeks).
3. You live in UTAH. Get used to it.
If you visit your friend Tara in Arizona in the middle of February and you have a wonderful time and the weather is mild and Springy and then you have to return home to a climate where palm trees do not sway freely in the breeze in February because IT”S WINTER YOU IDIOT, prepare yourself for an emotional let down.
4. The actual dental work is never the most painful part
If, after weeks of hardly being able to chew your food and drinking only warm water because anything cooler than tepid makes your head explode off your neck, you have major dental work done and after an hour in the Chair of Torture, you are thick in a pain-induced neural fog and you walk to the receptionist desk to pay for your new crown and the punishment that went with it, don’t be foolish enough to hand over your credit card first and ask for the bill second. You will undoubtedly be over-charged by more than a hundred dollars and then be forced to debate, for 30 minutes with a condescending billing secretary, the meaning of the words “Preferred Provider” and “Copay” and “Dental Insurance” when all you really want to do is get home, suck up some ibuprofen and cry yourself to sleep.
5. How to lose your pride...and all your junk
Let’s say, hypothetically, that you’ve arranged for a brilliant organizer named Lara to visit you and present an organizational seminar (which by the way, turns out to be very helpful). And just for the sake of argument, let’s say that this “Lara” offers to come to your home and take a look at your most frustrating organizational
6. Free-lance writer beware
If you write an article for a magazine that pays really well but has been in the market for less than two years, be careful. You may see your words in print but never get paid because the publisher might get caught in the same financial crunch as everyone else and have to close up shop.
7. Don’t count those cute, furry, photogenic chickens before they’ve hatched
And if you are naïve enough to get excited about the magazine publication and the big paycheck without realizing that it’s not a sure thing, don’t (for heaven’s sake!) spend the money before you get it.
Even if it’s on a camera you’ve always wanted.
8. It's okay to be a squeaky wheel
And if you are naïve enough to anticipate the money and stupid enough to spend it before you get it, don’t forge ahead and spend many, many more hours researching and writing a second article for the same magazine. Or at least you should listen to your husband’s advice and tell them (BEFORE dutifully sending the article in on the day of your deadline) that you’ll be happy to send it to them once you’ve received a check for the first one.
If you find out, four days before the event, that your son has a French horn recital, don’t forget to ask him if he’ll be needing a piano accompanist for his solo.
10. Don’t overleaven the loaf
If you spend half a day making bread from a new recipe (interspersing kneading and rising with trips to music lessons and Knowledge Bowl practices) watch it closely at the end or you’ll get to see what happens when loaves rise too high and then fall disappointingly flat at the end.
11. Your son rocks
If you blow it on the bread, and you feel like complaining about all the time you wasted, you probably shouldn’t do it in front of your son Ethan because he will undoubtedly remember the advice you just gave him two days ago. And he'll say, "Mom, remember that time you said there are no failures, only feedback?" Yeah, he’ll use that line. In fact, he will put his arm around you and ask you what you’ve learned from the experience and you will have to admit that there are at least 365 different ways to screw up bread and you’ve just eliminated one more of them the hard way. And really, this is not that painful of a lesson, considering it didn’t involve public humiliation (unless you confess to it on a blog or something) and your son has been through worse this weekend and you are unbelievably proud of him for his sympathetic heart and you’re gratified to discover that sometimes he listens to your advice if only to be able to pass it back to you when you need to hear it too.