Friday, January 25, 2008

Why cliches are wrong

Overheard in Psychology today:
"The only time you really fail is when you fail to try."

NOTE: No, I did not say/do anything to Mr. Idiot's face. Sorry, Mom.

Let's address the central premise of the above statement. First and foremost, it follows the popular idea that you can do anything if you try hard enough. In other words, nobody is a failure.

I'm sorry to disillusion my fellow precious snowflakes, but you can and will fail.

I refuse to say that failing is rewarding and the best thing that will ever happen to you, because it's not true.

Here's rule 1: Failing sucks.

It's not fun and nobody likes it. As a general rule, people don't set out to fail. Our culture is infused with the idea of the winner. Think about all the heartwarming stories about the kid with cancer who hits a home run in the bottom of the ninth or sinks the winning basket. Oprah talks to the learning disabled kid who goes to Harvard, not the one at the McDonalds fryer. We like thinking about winners. Even when we talk about people losing, it's generally along the lines of Babe Ruth striking out, where losing is a temporary step along the road to success. It's not always like that. Sometimes, you fail and it's the end. Flunk a class, and there will be no triumphant return to a 4.0 GPA. Sometimes, failure is permanent. We don't like thinking about it, but it's true. Failing sucks.

Rule number 2: Failing is inevitable.

Sometimes your best isn't good enough. No matter how hard you work, you won't be a nuclear physicist, an Olympic ice skater, or date the prom queen. Try all you want, but sometimes what you want is not going to happen. And yes, that sucks too.

Rule number 3: You cannot change Rules 1 and 2. Neither can anyone else.

Your mom can't make it better. It's not your professor's fault. There is a finite limit to your abilities in certain areas. Sometimes these limits are imposed by genetics or environment. Other times we impose limits on ourselves, simply by letting opportunities pass us by. (Didn't start practicing until you were thirty? Being a child prodigy pianist won't happen.)

In any event, trying hard enough doesn't make something happen. Failing can and will happen, no matter how hard you work.

Get used to it.

1 comment:

Professor P. said...

Well said, daughter. It will be printed and distributed to my Wednesday English class.