Failure

A few years ago, my wife and I renovated our kitchen. It took a lot of blood, sweat, and tears but we got it done. One thing it taught me was how much I despise tiling. I wasn't very good at it and I vowed I would never do it again. I completely forgot about that.


Well, a couple of weeks ago, my wife and I started renovating our bathroom. We pulled it apart fairly quickly, and started preparing it for its new look. After painstakingly discussing which tiles to use, testing different colours, sizes, and styles, we finally made our decision. And so, last weekend, the tiling began. About five minutes into the process my mindset dropped.


Mixing the adhesive, placing the tiles, getting the spacers in. The hell of it all came flooding back to me. I got angry. It seemed like nothing was working out. All the planning had gone down the drain. My wife was not impressed.


We didn't get it all done in one sitting.


Later on, my wife and I talked about the experience. She told me how she got angry about the attitude I had. My mindset training that I had been through for the past half-year was destroyed in minutes by an activity that had obviously been a trigger for me. And it's all because I believed I failed and couldn't put into perspective the bigger goals and bigger picture. Laying tiles perfectly is not the goal. Laying tiles adequately is.


The next day, we tried again.


This time the activity was the same. I sucked at mixing the adhesive. I got very messy. While cutting the tiles I got absolutely drenched by the tile cutter. The adhesive didn't do what I wanted it to do. The tiles were not going down as perfectly as they do in the YouTube tutorials.


I failed again.


But this time, I recognized how my attitude the day before impacted my wife. I accepted that I couldn't tile perfectly. That it is a messy job. That I'm not a tiler. I accepted it.


Failing was absolutely acceptable. And we enjoyed the experience together a lot more.



I would choose to spend weeks scraping vinyl glue than half a day laying tiles!


As a teacher, this kind of thought is what I have been wanting to get across to my students. Failure is not necessarily a bad thing. In the overall scheme of things, it's not bad at all. Failing is a learning experience.


What I learned, though, is that people have different triggers that might divert any mindset training that person has gone through. I didn't even consider that previously. But now I've been through it I understand it. Not completely, and not to any extent to help others. But at least I have lived it and can talk about it and its effects, like my wife did for me.

When it comes to math, I enjoy failing. Not all the time. Another teacher asked me to come up with a formula recently. I struggled and he berated me a little because of it. Not a nice feeling.


If someone fails, we shouldn't make fun of them or be let down by them. We should help them if they want it. Or perhaps just recognise that doing anything sometimes takes a bit of time.


I believe that I am good at math, not because I know my multiplication tables or can differentiate and integrate well, but because I stick with problems for a long time. I am a slow mathematician and I like my work to be correct, be communicated well, and look good. Along the way I am going to fail, and I want it to be shown. The image below is a solution I gave to his problem. In the bottom-left, I messed up but I wanted it to stay to show where I went wrong. The failure was a learning curve.


So, when you fail, it's not the end of the world. It's not a good time to get angry because that's gonna to make things worse for yourself and for the people around you.


If someone else is failing near you and going down a rabbit hole of despair, don't hate on them. Help them. Be a friend in that moment. A little bit of encouragement might go a long way towards achievement of whatever their goal is at that point in time.


You are going to fail throughout your life. Take those moments and learn from them. Make failure your friend, not your enemy.




Good luck, and I hope you encounter many failures in your lifetime!

© TheMathLab