Achieving Success… One failure at a time… Lesson learnt.

When my friend and bro Justin invited me to a free skating event at Mars Lakeview Arena, I never thought I would stumble upon an important realization, one that would give me an insight into how failure contributes to success and called me to reflect on some things past, present, and yet to come. Here’s what transpired:
After a busy week laden with the pressures of the day: school, school, and school, and just before another hectic week packed with exams, classes and other scholarly endeavors under my sleeve, I decided to go out of my way and try something out for one. My brother Pascal has this quote which he likes ‘Do not wait for things to happen to you, go out and happen to things’ and I somewhat decided on the logic behind the quote that I might as well give the skating a shot.
In Shona we say ‘Chitaurirwa hunyimwa sembare dzekumusana. Zvaitoda kuzvionera pamhuno sefodya’ – which in English, loosely translates to and means ‘Being told about something is less expressive than seeing it for yourself. You had to see for yourself close at hand to fully appreciate what transpired’ The moment I wore those skates and stepped on the rink, it suddenly hit me that I had perhaps made the worst of all choices to be at this place. The surface was icy and even when I was only one foot on the rink, testing like how one afraid of cold water tests whether the water in the stream is warm enough or not before diving in, I could feel that friction was one thing that did not exist on this surface. This also implied that one tiny wrong move would not only make me lose my balance but also put my perfect set of teeth at risk as well as my ‘extra pair of eyes – glasses’.
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With my chair …
I garnered a little confidence and put both feet onto the rink and I have never felt so divorced from my feet and balance as I did that Friday night in the arena. Within a few minutes, I had left the rink and gone to where I had put my extra belongings, given up already. Justin came and somehow managed to persuade me to give it one more try and to ‘trust him’ since he had taught skating before…but to little kids. I am an adult kid, and it’s no secret I lack flexibility.
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The Chair that taught Malvern a lesson
The good fellow, Justin, got a chair and wanted me to use it as a first step to learn how to skate. All about me, people seemed to float on the rink in a manner that resembled a butterfly floating over a bed of roses – effortless. It felt intimidating. The fact that I had never been on an ice skating rink in all my years gave me a little motivation to want to try it, even with chair, even if I was the only one. Raphael, my other friend who had also never skated before was making steady progress and his determination gave me another extra reason not to throw in the towel. Earlier, we had laughed our lungs out when we discovered we were both going skating for the first time and Justin had invited us both. Raphael wasn’t afraid of falling, he embraced it and saw it as necessary to learn how to skate. He also got inspiration whenever an occasional experienced skater fell and was stupefied how it had happened. All of this also gave me an insight into what’s perhaps is a very important lesson that I have learned so far and interestingly, outside the classroom.
I tried out the chair and Justin made me try skating, while balancing on him (almost ripped out his shoulder I think). Along came, Molly and although we were complete strangers, she helped me, taught me and knocked some of the fear out of me for I was much afraid of falling (and quite thankful I did not fall). Then came Michaela and Lindsey, who both showed me the ropes and worked as a team, motivating me each step of the way, to teach me how to successfully skate even while failing. It started with a few baby strides and by the end of the night I had made almost ten, more or less, supported and unsupported rounds. I remember the words of my friend, host, and mentor, Mark, who always encourages me to embrace learning with an open mind and in so doing, dispel the fear of failing for if one thing doesn’t work, the other might certainly work.
By the time the event ended, I had not only learned how to skate but also how to succeed, one failure at a time, casting away all fear of falling, shame and all the negatives that hinder progress. I also learned that indeed there are complete strangers out there who have big hearts that desire to have other people progress and do well in life. Next time, you meet someone new, don’t be a reason why they give up, be a reason why they are motivated. ‘If we all act like candles and light each other up, the world will be a much brighter and happier place to live in.’

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Of Deserts and Flowers

When it rains in the Death Valley or in the Atacama desert, two of the driest places on earth, life blossoms. When the conditions are right, miracles happen in these ‘dead’ places and flowers bloom and butterflies cut across the azure sky as if they are in a drunken stupor — crystal evidence that some of these places we consider dead are not as ‘dead’ as they seem. They are just dormant, waiting for the right conditions to come  about in order to awaken from the deep slumber of infertility.

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Image Source:// Hummert International

In my high school agriculture class many years ago, we were taught that plants are capable of growing and developing as long as the right conditions are made available to them. We all know through simple observation that this is true. We are part of this organic system where our growth and development is assured when the conditions are right and we are prepared to grow and let nature take its course. In Zimbabwe and other parts of the world, many who have flourished in their lives did so when the conditions that stimulate growth and expansion were made available to them. There are those who hailed from poverty-stricken regions but, inspired by the works and accomplishments of others, worked their way up to the top and some who did well when others availed opportunities for them.

There’s a saying that goes and I quote, ‘Opportunity dances with those who are already on the dance floor’ – the ones who are already in the mood and groove of things and not those who are sitting on the bench. The weather might not be perfect, the conditions might not be right, the music might be too low to dance to, but in all, one should always hold on to the potential to grow, for indeed one day the conditions will be right and all one has to do is grow.

Fail Constructively

It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all — in which case, you fail by default.
— J.K. Rowling

 

‘Results are out. go henceforth and reap what you sew!’

In Zimbabwe, students who sat for national exams recently got their results. Some were elated, others were devastated and crashed. I had the opportunity to interact with both. It does not take much effort to realize how exam scores mean a lot to students, to parents, and to all who are not either of these two. ‘How did you do?’ is often the question clinging on the lips of peers, parents, teachers (who might be in the know in most cases), like knives hanging precariously on a bandit’s waist.

The pressure is intense and it feels like life itself is dependent on the outcome of an exam, written by a student who spent days on end towards the final exams memorizing and marked by a teacher working on a target to mark as many papers as possible and get as much money as possible to support a family whose livelihood depends on the money. The tragedy is when one trades his/her life on the outcome of an exam. This does not strip away the importance of grades.

Stories are told of how if one was to look in Einstein’s report card, you would have doubted that this would be the one to revolutionize physics. St. Joseph of Cupertino (The flying monk) is commonly called the reluctant saint because he was slow  to learn and stayed in school even when he was older, learning with younger kids and not being the wiser. Yet he accomplished great things and God elevated him. There are many stories of people who failed in their lives but embraced failure as a stepping stone to success. The point is one does not attain success all the time and at the same time as others… which is why one must never compare his/her level of accomplishment to others’ levels of accomplishment.

26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him.

-1st Corinthians 1: 26-29, NIV

Most of the things I know are the things I failed at first which makes me think of success as a chain of failures connected together by links of perseverance and determination. It will be sheer folly on my part to say I started off on a good foot for those who know me from an earlier age will profess how I was almost close to being the first from last in my early years in primary school but slowly rose up the academic ranks, not by being very bright and by being bright enough to know I can try harder.

To those who put their life and happiness in the hands of an outcome of an exam, I urge you to digest the words of Malcolm Forbes:

Failure is success if we learn from it.
—Malcolm Forbes

Indeed, there is no way to success and as Gandhi put it:

There is no way to success, success is the way. — Gandhi, Mahatma

I believe if we all strive to learn from failure, from our mistakes, we can do good and be good. We must learn to learn from failure, rising up each time we fall and not being led astray by the temporary setbacks that are sure to come. Failure is an opportunity to work on aspects of our lives that need improvement. Hence we should embrace failure, not as an end but as a beginning. When we fail, let us fail constructively.

Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.
— Thomas Edison