“I think he just likes to fall down,” commented the other mother with a laugh. We were watching our kids play a recreation league flag football game, and my son had just hit the dirt clutching his opponent’s bright orange flag belt. I had to agree with her. Since early childhood, my son has never been afraid to fall—whether it was off a bike, from the top rung of the money bars, or on his behind while learning to inline skate. Falling down, for him, is just part of the deal when you’re exploring or learning something new.
My son pretty much applies this principle in many areas of his life. He has no hesitation in trying something new, even if the risk of falling—sometimes literally—is great.
He does not get this from me.
I have spent much of my life afraid of trying new things because of the ever-present risk of failure—no, not even of failure—of simply looking ridiculous. But as I’ve gotten older, I find that I am overcoming this fear, little by little. I’m becoming less interested in staying safe on the sidelines, and more interested in seeking out new and challenging experiences.
This change really began around my 40th birthday. I have loved horses all my life and always wanted one of my own, despite having little actual experience with them. I started small, by taking some riding lessons at a low-key barn. I learned what was really involved in horse care—and decided I wanted my own horse anyway. I was willing to risk failure because I wanted the experience so much. I didn’t care if I looked ridiculous.
I don’t have any special gift or great natural ability to ride. What I have is a great love for horses and a desire to learn and improve at something challenging. Yes, I have fallen, literally, from the back of my horse. And, yes, it hurts—but only for a little while. What would hurt more would be walking away from a lifetime dream.
A second new activity for me has been taking a watercolor class. I have little or no art training, so I admit that my expectations for myself weren’t that high. I didn’t expect to “fail,” but I also rather expected to look ridiculous, at least for a while. I’ve definitely had “failures,” if you want to call them that, in watercolor class. Pictures—many of them—that don’t look the way I want them to. But they’re not really failures, because I’ve learned something in painting them.
And perhaps the real success had already been achieved. When I walked in the door of the art room, and when I set foot on the barn property, I was taking the chance of “falling down,” risking failure by trying something new and challenging. While I can’t say I like falling down, I now believe that the real “failure” would be not to try at all.