What would you do if you knew you could not fail?

Q: What would you do if you knew you could not fail?

A: Learn to fly – not in a plane or anything but me by myself. Let me explain: for as long as I can remember the answer to that icebreaker question ‘If you could be any animal what would you be?’ has been an eagle. Not because of the sharp beak and talons, not because of the amazing eyesight or huge wingspan of these magnificent beasts but because they can fly! And boy do they fly! High above everything and everyone else, in a seemingly effortless dance of air vs feathers (that’s that huge wingspan for you), with only one thing really in mind, not having to juggle the very human demands of other people. For me it’s a symbol of strength and steadfastness in the face of adversity and harsh conditions. Of course the entertainment value of being able to fly like an eagle but still be a human being is pretty high – imagine being able to just take off into the air! Imagine finding a way to loosen the effect of gravity on your own body and float away, the wind in your hair, and eyes, and mouth and clothing….OK that’s not sounding all that brilliant…

So how about the answer to that icebreaker question ‘If you were a cartoon character, who would you be?’ Spiderman, every time. Not because of the radio-active spider thing, but because he can swing! Someone recently said to me, but Superman flies so why Spiderman? Perhaps it’s the more down-to-earth nature of how Spidey gets around – not by flying through the air with a cape streaming out behind him, but swinging around buildings with his trusty web-ropes that take him anywhere. Well, anywhere where the buildings are tall enough so a city like NYC or Shanghai maybe… And then of course there *is* that whole thing about the radio-active spider and Uncle Ben with his ‘With great power…’ speech. OK so maybe not that either…

Learning to fail is an important part of life. How we deal with failure shows whether we are weak or strong. We asked a bunch of 12-13 year olds whether they knew anyone who was strong and 4 of the 8 of them told us stories about people they knew who had gone through a huge amount of ‘failure’ and come out the other side, stronger.

Learning from how we ‘fail’ or make a mistake is such a crucial skill in life that I think we all need to fail or rather we all need to notice when we fail, admit our mistake and make changes to ensure the same thing doesn’t happen again, in order to learn how to be strong, how to be wiser, how to lift others up, how to live well.


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