Connection and Failure

As I’ve mentioned before, I teach Spanish at a local school. One of my biggest rules is that the students are only to speak Spanish, or, at least, we aim for Spanish 90% of the time. Unfortunately, this is one of the rules that my students violate most often, and I’m still working out why and how to prevent the violations. The other day I gave them an exercise, wherein they were to listen for specific phrases from a video. The point of the exercise, I explained, was not to get it right. The point was to practice listening. Nevertheless, I noticed many of them had a very difficult time sitting in the discomfort of not “getting the right answer,” turning to their neighbors for English answers, rather than persevering in Spanish.

Perseverance is one of the “soft-skills” that our kids need in order to become successful in life. Yes, it is important to know stuff. Whatever our chosen vocation, we have to have certain skills. But we also have to know how to keep going even when we make mistakes.

Watching my students, I recognized these emotions in myself.  (Or, I could get all psychobabbly and suggest that I was just projecting in the first place, and that my students were in fact experiencing something totally different!)  I struggle with just sitting in that discomfort of doubt.  In the last few years especially, I’ve had to really practice being kind to myself when I make mistakes, so that I’m more inclined to work through my setbacks and try again.

Researching this idea I discovered a video, made by one of the smartest 7-year olds I’ve ever seen.


I have two favorite parts of this video (well, aside from listening to him say the word “hypothesis”—charming). The first is that going into it, he thought he was going to fail 20 times. He built failure into the project. I don’t think I’ve ever started a project saying to myself, “I expect this won’t work 20 times. But on the 21st time I’ll get it right.” Which isn’t to say that I haven’t failed at a task more than 20 times before having a success. It’s that, instead, I’ve said to myself, “Ugh! I didn’t get it right, AGAIN!” When I recognize that most of my frustration in life comes from unmet expectations, I love that this kid expected failure—so much for me to learn from him!

My second favorite thing about the video is simply that it came across my radar in the first place. It has more than a million views. Which, admittedly, isn’t considered viral. But a million views is not nothing. Despite being an amateur/mom-filmed video of a simple Rube Goldberg machine, numerous people have considered it worth viewing. Sure, it may just be a bunch of kids watching to see another kid build a machine. But there may be other reasons for those views, too. And while I can’t speak for a million other people, I can say for myself that I am drawn to the whole nature of this kid’s willingness to be so courageous (did I say I was impressed by his expectation of failure?). It’s easy to connect with him, to be inspired by him, because he’s willing to be authentic.

Connection is one of the Song of the Heart studio values. The times that I’ve been able to connect with my kids in the studio have formed many of my favorite memories with them. Knowing that my newborn babies were perfect, that there was a whole world of wonder waiting for them, made it difficult for me to accept the fact that I was going to mess up this parenting gig sometimes. Nevertheless, the longer I parent, the more I read and practice, the more convinced I am that connection (with my kids, my partner, and other parents) grows in an environment where I am willing to expect failures, to stay open despite the mistakes, and to persevere through the more difficult times of parenting.



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