I remember so well when I first became a dad thinking to myself, “OK, so now I’ve got to keep from screwing up.” All dads trying to do this right have that thought from time to time, right?
Well, tonight I think I screwed up. I came home and just went into a fog. TV, a little dinner, a dose of impatience with my wife and kids and then an abbreviated bedtime routine that I feel like cut my kids short on what I consider to be particularly precious time.
Now I’m sitting here vegging out again and thinking to myself, “Did I just mess up my kids in some little way that over time will accumulate with all my other failures and land them in a large leather chair talking to a guy with a pipe?” Yes, I know that’s ridiculous. But it’s gotten me thinking about the role of failure in being a dad.
Maybe it would help to define how I think of my role as a dad. Simply put, I think my role as a dad is to teach my boys how to be men and to give them a great example of what one looks like. It may seem simple, but well, I’m a pretty simple person. Much more complex than that and I’ll start getting confused. Besides, I’m pretty sure that basically covers it.
With that in mind, how does failure play into the plan? Funny enough, today I also received an email that had a link to a YouTube version of one of my favorite commercials of all time.
It is because Michael Jordan didn’t allow failure to stop him that he was able to achieve the level of success he did. You may say that it was his amazing level of talent that got him there…and you’d be right. But I think the real point is that whatever our potential is we have to learn the lesson of failure for our potential to be realized. (You know that at some point “having potential” is actually an insult, right? You have to actually realize that potential sometime.) Failure isn’t the thing that stops us from achieving. It’s the rite of passage to our achievement. The minute you stop experiencing failure is the minute you have stopped trying to achieve anything new.
As a dad, the way I handle failure is going to be absorbed by my boys. Do they see me fail? Do they see me admit it? Do I apologize when I’ve failed them or someone else? Do I try again? Do I keep at it until I win? Whatever I do, they see and in large part, they become.
I think it’s my responsibility to fail in front of my kids. So tonight, yes I failed. But that means tomorrow I have a chance to become a better man and help my boys better know what manhood is. I can tell them I know I wasn’t the dad they needed and that I’m sorry. Then I can get better.
Failure. Maybe one of the greatest arrows I have in my arsenal in driving a lesson into the hearts of the future men I’m raising. Never to be used as an excuse or as a cop-out.