Wake-up call in bedtime story embracing failure
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I was reading with my kid the other night. Bedtime stories are different now that she’s a little older. We’ve mostly transitioned from me reading to her, to us reading a graphic novel together before she goes to sleep. I love it.
The book we were reading was from the Cat Kid series by Dav Pilkey. The story is about characters who have joined the Cat Kid Comic Club, which is exactly what it sounds like: a club devoted to making comics.
The group members have been assigned to make comics, but they initially don’t even try. They have all sorts of reasons and excuses about why they don’t want to make a comic: They don’t have ideas, they can’t draw, they think the assignment is dumb. Ultimately, they don’t try because they are afraid to fail.
Club president Cat Kid and the vice-president — a floating worm character — decide to change up the assignment to have everyone make a comic and fail miserably at it. What is born out of that are a bunch of inspired students who aren’t afraid of exploring ideas, failing or even embarrassing themselves. This new perspective on the same assignment changes everything. It inspires the whole club to try because they have confidence and aren’t afraid of failing. Brilliant.
When I tell you this graphic novel was one of the most profound things I have read in a long time, I am not kidding. I was blown away by the lesson both my kid and I got out of reading this. Perhaps she wasn’t as moved as I was. I’m just glad she’s getting this kind of messaging in the things she reads.
I know what you’re thinking — that I am a grown adult deeming a children’s book as one of the most profound things I have read in a long time. Yes, this is exactly what I am doing. The book was great. I give it two thumbs up (or five stars, or whatever).
I think this message hit home because it is such an important thing to remember — something we need drilled into our minds over and over again. Failure is OK. It can be great, even, because not being afraid to fail gives us the freedom to try new things unabashedly.
Our mistakes and failures often launch us into our greatest successes. This applies to everything we’ve ever done and probably everything we’re ever going to do. We learn to walk by crawling and stumbling and failing a hundred times before finding our footing and discovering how to balance and move forward. We learn to be better from making mistakes and fumbling our way through life — through school, work, relationships, parenthood, whatever — by balancing various degrees of screwups with successes without really appreciating that all the things we are good at used to be hard.
Most of us aren’t naturally and automatically good at anything. Every accomplishment we’ve had is built on a foundation of failures and mistakes — every single one. (Though I do admit, some of us are really thorough at making mistakes. I think I am one of those people.)
Sometimes, simply trying is the biggest success of all.
Yet, even after thinking about all of that, I am not sure I know anyone who is not afraid to fail. I still am.
Here’s to bedtime stories learning the value of failing.
Columnist, Manager of Reader Bridge project
Shelley is a born and raised Winnipegger. She is a proud member of the Brokenhead Ojibway Nation.