After 17 years in nonprofit association management and 40 years on this earth, I am still learning some of the most important lessons in life from my 10 year old. A few months back Lily competed in a Geo Bee – for those of you not familiar with this concept, it’s like a Spelling Bee but swap out words for geography facts. When she first came to my husband and I asking to participate, my gut reaction was, NO. See, Lily inherited her sense of geography from me…and that is not exactly something to brag about. Plus, this meant more homework, more afterschool activities and most certainly tears. But she persevered, went to all the after school meetings, watched National Geographic videos and worked on the homework.
And then came the Geo Bee. The morning of the competition I told her she didn’t have to do it if she was scared, there is no shame in bowing out gracefully. But she refused. I reassured her that I knew how she must be feeling – nervous, overwhelmed and even scared, she replied by saying, “Mom, you don’t understand.” And you know what, she was right. When was the last time I pushed myself out of my comfort level or tried something that had a high probability of failure? Honestly, I couldn’t think of a time in recent memory.
So, how did it end up? She didn’t make it to the championship round but there were no tears (from Lily, although not all the kids walked away unscathed). She dusted herself off, took the loss like a pro and was ready for the next challenge, no worse for the wear. She didn’t get a ribbon for participation or even a certificate. Her prize was the realization that she saw something through to the end.
This isn’t a story about stick-to-itness with a happy ending, it’s about not letting fear of failure hold you back. Can you imagine the possibilities in the association world if we all had a Lily mindset? My challenge to myself, and you, is to stop being so scared. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.” So, what’s your Geo Bee going to be?