The Atlantic had a great article on “Why Writers Are the Worst Procrastinators,” but instead of just answering this question, it got me thinking about the nature of failure.
I grew up as the “smart kid.” I was the naturally talented kid who was smart, wise, and independent – I had all the makings of a successful student.
I think that was the identifying quality that’s been a constant in my life. If there was a scale of words that have been used to describe me, smart would be the heaviest. (And to be fair, I am not that smart.)
Looking back I see how that set me up for failure (and not in a good way).
I wasn’t challenged as a kid. In school I was smart, so I excelled in academics. We were lower middle class, so we didn’t have the money or time for extracurricular activities. I was also incredibly stubborn, so you couldn’t force me to play a sport if you tried (this hasn’t changed).
As I entered college and graduate school, I figured one of those challenging moments would happen. They didn’t. The only course that came close was Latin and I still love that language for that very reason.
The “system” created in me a “fixed mindset” instead of a “growth mindset.” (Read the article for more details on this.)
I was taught that failure wasn’t an option, and if you did fail, it meant you shouldn’t go down that path. I learned that praise for doing something well was more important than praise for doing something new. I intentionally avoided situations that would cause me to fail. I look back on my life and I actually regret that I didn’t take anatomy or chemistry. I regret that I stayed in the liberal arts departments. Sure, I was good at it and it came easy, but did I actually grow?
So why do I write this and share this?
I am stuck as a 30-year-old realizing how important it is to have a “growth mindset” or a “fail forward mindset” and feeling like I missed out on something.
Well, I am going to do something about it. I am going to fail forward. I am going to try things I said I couldn’t do or wasn’t good at and let myself fail. I want to be challenged. I want to grow. If I have learned anything from exercising and losing weight the past year it’s that I am capable of so much more.
So expect some crazy projects that may be horrible and embarrassing, but at least I can say I tried. Put that on my tombstone, “Tawny Burgess, a woman who tried.”