Yesterday was a beautiful, cold, typical Montreal winter day. The sky was perfectly blue and the temperatures hit -12°C. Chico and I decided to break out the ice skates we bought last year (and used maybe twice) and head to a nearby park to skate.
We laced ourselves into our skates and tentatively stood up and inched forward. As always when first putting on skates, I am really, really, REALLY nervous. It takes a while for me to get into the rhythm, and I skate with my eyes peeled on the ice in front of me, evaluating its state of smoothness and likelihood to trap me into a painful fall.
After a while, and feeling more adventurous, I picked up speed and got into a good gliding motion. But then, I hit a rough patch. The blades of my skates got caught in the choppy ice, and a law of inertia came into play: my upper body stayed in motion while an external force acted upon my feet. My skates slowed and my torso kept moving and WHAM! I ended up flat on my stomach, arms sprawled ahead and looking extremely undignified.
As soon as I stopped moving and was able to ascertain I wasn’t injured, I broke into a peal of giggles. “So that’s what falling feels like?” I asked myself. “Is that as bad as it gets?? Man, that was NOTHING!” And I got up, dusted myself off and skated off, my whole body much more relaxed, less tense and more ready to enjoy the skating.
A friend once said that if you don’t fall over on a ski outing, you don’t learn anything. That was certainly true of my ice skating excursion. And it got me thinking about the value of failure. We are often so terrified of failure. But we fail (ha, get it?) to consider just how useful failure can be. Rare are the cases when our failure will result in something horribly disastrous, physically painful or hurtful to someone else. Most of the time, if we make a mistake or mess up, we will at worst embarrass ourselves, be humbled and perhaps a little humiliated. But hey, that’s all a healthy, learning opportunity.
Falling flat on my stomach on the ice yesterday reminded me that I needn’t be afraid of failure. That doesn’t mean I won’t try to avoid it, but I won’t be afraid of it. I’ll probably mess some things up in the future, but hopefully I’ll be able to dust myself off and keep skating.