The NY Times recently posted an article entitled “What if the secret to success is failure?” (Thank you to Jeanine from Going Coastal for the link to that.) It’s an ancient and fruitful idea, really. Serendipitously, I received the link at the same time as someone forwarded these lovely quotations from Tamarack Song’s book “Blossoming the Child”:
The wise Hawaiian elder Kaili’ohe Kame’ekua, who lived in the 1800s, put it this way:
“We were taught from the time we could understand, that there are no accidents. All things happen for a reason. We may not know what the reason is at the moment, but to always be happy even for misfortune, for with it comes some wisdom that we could not have had otherwise.” (p. 8)
“Suffering the consequences of our acts develops responsibility.” (p. 28)
“Ein guter Stolperer fällt nicht” (A good stumbler falleth not.) (p.28)
“Failure teaches success” according to one proverb; and another from Africa states “Men fall only in order to rise.”
“Failure is not an option–it is a privilege reserved only for those who try. “
Anthropologist Margaret Mead shares a unique twist on our beliefs around failure from the Iatmul people of New Guinea: “We laugh at a failure–at a slip of the tongue, at someone who stumbles clumsily where grace is required; the Iatmul…on the other hand, laugh uproariously when a child or a foreigner gets something right.” (p. 31)
“The man who makes no mistakes does not usually make anything.” (attributed to Edward John Phelps.)
Imagine what a difference it could make if those of us who felt victimized by accidents, failures, and mistakes, empowered ourselves by embracing them as eye-openers, teachers, and opportunities. I’ve seen this simple change in perspective transform people’s lives. Yes, this attitude adjustment is monumental–even revolutionary–and yet all they have done is return to the outlook they were born with and held when they were children. Through their example, these people are giving their children perhaps the greatest gift they could bestow.
For those who still insist on being victimized by life–and in turn victimize their children–I would like to offer this sage morsel: “He who thinks he was never a fool is now a fool.”
My son Wabineshi and I make a game of humbling ourselves with statements like, “How silly of me; if I didn’t learn something from that, I deserve it twice as bad next time.” If the simplest thing we can do to grow in wisdom is to admit we’re fools, we’d be fools not to.
(Many thanks to Kerstin on the Continuum Concept mailing list for sending these wonderful quotes on.)