Interesting fact about ice skating - the very first thing you learn is how to fall down. Because no matter how good of a skater you become, falling down is part of learning to skate. That’s why we put those helmets on your heads.
When the skating instructor gathered her beginners, before you ever stepped on the ice, she took you off to the side and taught you how to fall down. She made sure you knew to let it happen. To not fight. To lean into the fear of falling.
Failure is inevitable. Falling will happen no matter how much you try to avoid it.
So before you learn to skate, you learn to fall. But the instructor didn’t leave you there. She taught you how to get up the right way. How to protect your fingers from the skate blades and to step up with confidence one foot at a time. She taught you to get back up and try again.
Then she had you practice falling a few more times.
And each time you got back up.
She may have taught you the most important lesson you ever needed to learn.
You cannot skate without falling down. Nor can you build a video game that delights you without making a few mistakes along the way. That is just part of the process of getting good at something. It is a scary, scary thing. I know this all too well. I wish I had taken more chances in my life, risked more, and even failed more because at least that meant I was trying something new, something challenging. I wonder how many great moments I missed in life because I was too scared to make a mistake.
I recently heard Sarah Lewis, a cultural historian and Du Bois Fellow at Harvard University, speak about the importance of failure. She said, “There are blame worthy failures and praise worthy failures.” Can you imagine? Sure, sometimes you will mess up but was it while trying to do something great? Or was it while avoiding the good, the better, the scary, the risky?
I’m sure you’ve seen the inspirational photos with the saying, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” I’ve always liked the idea of this, except I am beginning to realize that the destination informs the journey and creates the path you will travel. The destination matters. Shoot for the moon. Seek the destination that leads you on the most amazing journey you can imagine and then see where it leads. Take chances. Make mistakes. Fail. Because you cannot get where you want to go, without falling.
You cannot dream without closing your eyes.
You cannot find love without opening yourself up to pain.
You cannot succeed without first learning how to fall down.
And then getting back up. One step at a time.
Honestly, maybe this letter is really more for me than for you. I have watched each you take risks and I have seen the smile on your face, the pride in your accomplishment, when you moved past the possibility of failure and succeeded at something that was hard at first. I have witnessed your perseverance as you stumbled, made mistakes, brushed yourself off, and then took another step.
So maybe it wasn’t the ice skating instructor that taught us this lesson as much as it was watching each of you.
Thank you for inspiring me with your dreams.