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The Failure Effect

Updated: Sep 15, 2022

Growing up my parents would always say, "You need to go to school, get an education, get a good job and live a better life than me." As a child, I didn’t really understand what that meant, and the idea of going to school and getting a job didn’t seem like fun to me. At all. Now that I’m an adult and have children of my own, I can understand why my parents made it a point to ingrain that in me. Wanting better for our children is a given, right? I’m certain that most parents want their children to live and have the best life possible.

Although these subjects can be intimidating, it’s crucial we talk with our children about the importance of education, setting goals, and financial freedom. It’s even more important to set expectations about what the journey encompasses and prepare them for the unexpected. Be truthful — let them know that along the way, they may face fear, self doubt, anxiety and failures. Explain they will experience love, joy, make memories, celebrate successes, earn promotions — sometimes with smiles, sometimes through tears. Life won’t always be kittens and cupcakes, and there’s nothing wrong with being honest about that. And there’s nothing wrong with reminding them you’ll always be there, forever their sounding board and biggest cheerleader. The light they need when times feel dark.

In the real world, when things don’t go as expected, when despite our best efforts nothing is connecting, when we feel no matter how hard we try to do better and be better, but nothing is working — enter the failure effect. The failure effect can be brutal. It’s that feeling in the pit of your stomach when you let life knock you down. When you let life tell you that you’re not enough. When you tell yourself that you’ll never get out of debt. When you tell yourself you’ll never be happy. When you believe that the curses won’t leave your family line anytime soon. When you count the failures and don’t count the successes.

I personally experience the failure effect quite often. I’m overly critical and extremely hard on myself. As I work endlessly to try and build a good life for my family and I, I am reminded of the difficulties that sometimes come before a "good life." As I try and break bad habits and break curses that have plagued my family for generations, I am reminded that life isn’t always easy. I’m reminded there will be more failures than successes.

The failure effect shows up in other ways — when I’m critiquing my choices, second guessing my decisions and pondering what life would be like if I were just a little bit better. A little bit smarter, more patient, stronger (mentally & physically), more loving, and less angry. I’m a work in progress. I want to someday see myself how others see me. I know it won’t always be this way.

My hope is to raise my children so they don’t get tangled in the web of the failure effect. My wife and I are starting early and equipping them with the tools they’ll need to handle life’s ebbs and flows. Because I struggle… I know what they need. The cycle stops with me. I’m teaching my children to be kinder to themselves. To respect the process. To have faith. To trust the Universe. To believe in themselves. To work hard. To prioritize themselves. To stand tall if they’re feeling low. And to always remember how valuable they are… no matter what.

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