“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.” Paulo Coelho
When I walked into the touristy bakery on the Champs Elysee, my mind silently conjugated the college French from so long ago before I even uttered the broken sentence. I said something haltingly and the woman behind the counter just shook her head at me in disgust. “In English!” She told me matter-of-factly. Her English was so much better than my French.
It’s scary to make mistakes.
They say that one of the reasons why children learn a second (or a first, for that matter) language so easily and efficiently is that they aren’t afraid to make mistakes. They aren’t afraid to conjugate the verbs wrong and also, when their parents or teachers correct them, they do so lovingly.
“Wants MILK!” a toddler says.
Her mother gently corrects, “Do you want milk, sweetheart?” She says it the right way and the toddler responds. “Yes! I want milk!”
We have so much less grace for the adult learners in our lives.
On the way home from school today my eleven-year-old read to me a story she’d written in class. It was a fantasy story that was surprisingly original and fascinating but also drew from a lot of overused story motifs. Even so, it was beautiful and free.
As I listened, I could hear my girl’s heart break through.
She wrote with such freedom that any clichés didn’t matter any longer. And it almost seemed that the freedom outweighed any formulaic story structure. The freedom took over and made every part of it beautiful. There was freedom because she’d been given the space to dream up a big, wild story and she knew her dreaming wasn’t going to be discouraged.
If my girl was writing a story and she knew that her illogical plot points would be edited away or that the fantasy would be marked out, would she have written such a beautiful story? Absolutely not. She wrote that amazing story because she’d been given the space to do so.
Somewhere between her and me most of us lose our freedom to write those big wild stories. And those who don’t? They make millions.
When I write, my inner critic (and sometimes real-life external editors) are the gatekeepers to my dreaming. What if we could write or live or work without fear that our wild dreaming or our mistakes would disqualify us? What if we could create without that mean, French cashier shaking her head when we try oh-so-desperately-hard to do well?
There would be such freedom.
It’s this freedom that gives us the space to be beautiful, to dream, to create. It’s this child-like open-endedness that feels like an August day when we are eight. It’s boundless. It’s free. It’s full of opportunity and hope.
Maybe we can begin to give our people, the ones we know and love and interact with the most, the room to both dream and the room to fail. Maybe we can stop conjugating their verbs for them and simply love them into best practices. Maybe we can be the safe places where our friends and children dream big and fail grandly.
Oh to fail with grandiose precision!
Let us be the ones to start this “failure-revolution” because all great ideas are built on the backs of ones that don’t work out so well.
Have you failed? What has failure taught you? What would you not have finished/achieved had you not failed first?