Life Lessons: Hard Work, Failure and Shame

Yesterday was the next cut in the third grade spelling bee. Mojo worked hard, studied her butt off and missed out on playing with her friends in order to be prepared for the big day. The goal was in sight…to make it to the school spelling bee. She did everything she needed to do within the given time frame.

The Big Day

The big day came and she missed her word. It was "emphasize." The top three winners words were: sugar, hearth and earring – piece of cake! She was devastated and couldn’t understand why the other kids got the easy words in order to win and she got emphasize. That’s a word even I have to double-check with spell check, so she had a valid point.


After wiping away lots of tears and listening to her ruminate about the competition, it was time for another one of my great lectures. The advice I told her is what we all know too can be prepared as best as you can, work hard and miss something that should have been easy. She is one of the lucky few who skates through life and excels at school (even with skipping a grade), she has lots of friends, is good at sports and is very pretty. There are many out there who aren’t as lucky and she’s never learned the lesson of working hard and still failing. In my mind, this was a long overdue and welcomed lesson. At this point, the sobbing sounded like a dying moose. My lecture wasn’t going so well.

I flipped the examples over to lifting. After every strongman competition I spend days ruminating on my performance, critiquing it, and wishing I could change things. After much wasted energy, the end conclusion is always the same. Develop a plan to support your goals and go after them. You can’t waste time sitting, thinking and beating yourself up. There is a lesson to be learned, so learn it and move on. This will make you a better person.


Things weren’t sinking in. At this point, I was reaching for straws to make this end. I resorted to telling her, "Who cares what kind of speller you are, your deadlift is enviable." That didn’t work. Apparently she doesn’t care about her deadlift, she wanted to win at spelling. The girl went on to tell me she felt ashamed of her performance. What? That’s a strong word for the situation. The door was wide open for motherly wisdom, I had to grab my opportunity.

My eternal words of wisdom are always awesome.

"You should be ashamed if you steal. You should be ashamed if you lie. You should be ashamed if you pee your pants in front of the class. You should definitely be ashamed if you run down the street naked with the police are chasing you. But, NEVER be ashamed about doing your best and failing. There is no such thing."