The Other “F” Word

Failure is goodWhy do we spend so much time trying to protect ourselves and our children from failure?  I see the fear of failure paralyze students time and time again.  Don’t get me wrong – no one wants to fail, least of all me – but failure usually teaches us infinitely more than our successes ever can.  People who have failed and lived to tell the tale understand that failure is not a bad thing and they know that it can motivate a person to achieve great success! 

My ‘guidance’ counsellor in high school, Mr. Sage (not a word of a lie – that was his name!) told me I had closed the door to opportunity and done myself a great disservice because I dropped my grade 13 English class effectively “closing the door on university” and ruining my life (Career Failure #1).  Thankfully, though he ratted me out to my parents, my mom and dad were the ‘experience life and deal with the consequences’ type of people. They didn’t immediately jump into action to manage my life for me and chart my course (thanks mom and dad).

The truth was, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, but I loved sport so I decided to enroll in the Sports Administration Program at Durham College (Career Failure #2 according to Mr. Sage – ‘settling’ for college when I was capable of ‘university). I’m not sure I thought I had failed, but I know I felt that I had somehow done something wrong.  I cannot tell you the opportunities that ‘settling’ for college created for me.  I have made several career changes over the years and my initial decision to attend Durham College ultimately led me to my current, and most satisfying career: college professor.  Nothing fell on my lap or was easy – I worked hard each step of the way, took low paying jobs, dealt with long commutes, put in a LOT of volunteer hours, failed a few times along the way, and struggled to find balance (which I’m still looking for BTW).  Failure fuelled my desire to keep moving forward.

If I hadn’t gone to Durham, I would not have been taught by Don Fraser.  If I hadn’t been taught by Don Fraser, he would not have asked me to ‘pinch hit’ for him many years later when he took a sabbatical and I took over his Sport Management course for one semester.  If I hadn’t seized that opportunity, I might never have known what it felt like to enjoy a career that felt like I had finally arrived where I was supposed to be.  But I did, and he did, and here I am!  Oh, and along the way, I went back to school, earned a second diploma, attended Brock University to earn a teaching certificate and just recently completed my Masters in Education.

I wish I could find Mr. Not-So-Sage and tell him how rich my life has been as a result of my ‘failures’ and my college experience!  There are lots of things to fear in this world, but failure shouldn’t be one of them.


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Kathleen Stewart

Parent, cart-wheeler, teacher, marathoner.

1 Comment

  1. Mike Shoreman
    March 25, 2017 at 3:07 pm — Reply

    Hello Kathleen,

    I met you today at the open house and we spoke about the program. I have a few follow up questions and was wondering if you could please email me. By the way Randy Pausch’ the last lecture is one of my fave books. Inspiring!

    Thank you.

    Mike Shoreman

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