Failure is Not an Option – Mini Book Club

“Hut, hut,” yells the quarterback. The center snaps the ball. As the left defensive guard, I lurch forward when the ball moves on the second hut to block the right offensive guard in front of me. I continue blocking the guard, just as I have for the past two years, until the referee blows the play dead.

 “What are you doing?” the right guard asks, shaking his head as he heads back to the huddle. Not sure of his intent, I scold, “What do you mean; what am I doing?” in the toughest voice I can muster expecting a fight.

“You keep blocking me without trying to get to the quarterback. Are you mad at me, or do you not know how to play football?”

“Hut, hut,” the quarterback barks again as the center snaps the ball. Befuddled by the question just asked by the combatant in front of me, I stand up as the ball is hiked and am quickly run over by the guard, running back then quarterback as they score a touchdown.

On the bus ride home, the coach asks why I stood up and didn’t block the guard. Not sure how to answer, I sheepishly offer, “You didn’t teach me what to do.” This was the last football game of my short career. Failure becomes my friend.

In my first high school English class, Mr. Nixon assigns his students to write a short story based on our summer vacation. I write of swimming in the river, bike rides in the mountains and a visit to Uncle Wally’s horse ranch. My pride beams as I place the story on the teacher’s desk.

My mood changes receiving the response from Mr. Nixon. As I hold my paper, I see red marks, a lot of them, and the grade C- just under my name. Embarrassed by the grade, I quickly hide the paper in my notebook and wait for the class to get over to read my corrections. There are none. Only red marks highlighting my mistakes.

The next day I ask Mr. Nixon what I did wrong on the paper in hope of learning from my errors. He quickly looks at the paper, hands it back and laughs, “Ask your classmates to help you. You should have learned this in elementary school.” Knowing I only need two English classes in high school, I accept my low C in English I and II and concede that I will not have the opportunity to further my education past high school. I have failed once more.

Six years later I join the Air Force and decide to overcome my reading deficit. I take a remedial English class at a tech school in Albuquerque, N.M., and learn the tools necessary to become a college student. I enroll for the GI Bill educational tuition funds and register for three classes at the University of New Mexico.

The classes become overwhelming and I become academically lazy and begin to once again fail. I decide to drop out and simply quit showing up, expecting to start again next semester with a better attitude and more stamina.

Being a first-generation college student, I do not understand how college and financial aid work. I quickly learn. At the end of the semester I receive my report card with three F’s followed quickly with a bill for the tuition and a letter placing me on academic probation. My college days are done – I have failed.

At the age of 27, I find myself struggling with my life purpose, my career and my confidence. I am a sergeant in the Air Force, I am afraid of failure, but feel a deep desire to give college one more try. I face my fear and register for English 101 at Black Hills State University, buy my books, backpack, pens and paper and sit in my first class – the assignment; what did you do on your summer vacation?

I write my paper, hand it in, receive it back and am afraid to look at the grade. I build the courage to take a peek and see the familiar C-. Following the script from my past, I quickly place the paper in my notebook and leave the class.

I sit on a bench in the quad, remove my paper from my notebook and take another look. This time there is no red, only black. The teacher writes three pages of corrections for my one-page essay.

At the bottom of the page is a hand-written note by the professor, “Make these corrections and turn your paper back in.” I read, reread then read again the correction, rewrite my paper then hand it in. This time the paper earns a B+. Four years later I earn my Bachelor of Science degree from BHSU which is one of the proudest moments of my life following the marriage to my wife and the birth of my daughter.

Without the encouragement and feedback of one person, a teacher, I would never have attained one of my life goals – a college education. Teachers hold a lot of power. A teacher can support, guide, encourage and educate or a teacher can be dismissive, unfocused and indifferent.

I guess my point is, failure is addictive. Once one starts to fail, failure begets failure. It is easy to be convinced that one is less than, not as good as, or a failure. Once one begins to fail, apathy sets in and failure becomes easy.

Sometimes life gets in the way of success. Poverty, the death of a parent, divorce or getting a C- on a report card all create a sense of loss, demise, failure or helplessness. Often this sense of hopelessness can be overcome by a caring, nurturing or focused support and often this person is a teacher, parent or friend. Failure is easy, success takes energy!

**Adapted from, Author Unknown, Published March 2015.


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