Letter to an 11 year old boy

happsadA friend of my younger son, who’s 11, just received some bad news. He recently sat a school entrance exam and attended for interview, but wasn’t successful at getting a place. This blog article is for him.

Failure sucks. It always does. But it’s also a great teacher. When you experience failure, there are valuable life lessons to be learned. You’re smart, so may have already learned these for yourself, but if not, I’ll point some of them out for you.

Lesson 1. You are not a failure.
Just because you didn’t succeed at something it doesn’t make you a failure. The school you applied to is one of the most selective and competitive schools in the country. Most people who apply don’t get accepted. Most people don’t even apply. You did, so you are already way ahead of the majority.

You’re also one of the brightest, smartest, most articulate boys I know. You’re going to enjoy a lot of successes in your life, and failure to get into this school doesn’t change any of that.

Lesson 2. Everyone fails.
Everyone will fail at something. We’re not gods. But if we fail, we should pick ourselves up and try again, otherwise we’ll never know success. I’ve written on this blog about some of my own greatest failures (and I’ve clocked up some more disasters since I wrote that article.) Ironically, that blog article was my most successful ever. It’s been read by nearly 4,000 people and been shared hundreds of times on Facebook and Twitter. So out of failure can come success. In fact, failure is a strong indicator that you’re the kind of person who’s likely to succeed. The people who fail the most are the people who take on the hardest challenges.

Lesson 3. Failure and success are very nearly the same thing.
You may think I’m pulling a fast one here, but stay with me. When you experience success or failure, it feels like they are opposites. One opens a door; the other closes it. But like I already said, the school you applied to is one of the most selective. Only the best and brightest apply. The difference between success and failure is a hair’s breadth. Everyone who has the courage to apply is a winner, and all will go on to do brilliantly in their school careers.

Lesson 4. You need to fail more not less.
Now you really think I’m talking nonsense, right? But it’s true. People who achieve the greatest successes also experience the worst defeats. That’s because they’re not afraid to take risks. You don’t want to be someone who’s afraid to take risks, do you? Because people like that may rarely fail, but they’ll rarely succeed at anything important either.

If you’re ambitious and want to achieve greatness, you’d better be prepared to fail catastrophically too. Failure is excellent preparation for success, and you should practice it as much as you can!

So be fearless. Don’t be afraid to fail – and success will come your way.

Lesson 5. Don’t hide your failures.
Failures are nothing to be ashamed of (see lesson 1.) Talk to your friends and family about what went wrong. They may be able to help, or at least offer some comfort. Even if they can’t help you, telling them your story might help them. Keeping things secret never helps anyone.

Nobody will remember your failures, only your successes. Look closely under the surface of any successful person and you’ll find a string of failures.

Lesson 6. You will succeed.
Of course you will succeed, and failure is an excellent starting point for success.

Life is bitter-sweet, and success and failure go hand in hand. Every time you fail, you move one step closer to your next success. Thomas Edison, when trying to invent the light bulb, said, ‘I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that didn’t work.’

When you fail (as everyone does), you should use it as a valuable life lesson. Don’t let it make you afraid to take on difficult challenges. Instead, go and seek them out, and look forward to many successes (and failures) in the future.

Good luck! But remember, you don’t need luck. Only the courage and perseverance to keep trying.

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20 responses to “Letter to an 11 year old boy

  1. I like that, Steve. Jonny Wilkinson said: ‘The more I practise, the luckier I get.’ And I think that the more you try, even when you really feel there’s a mountain on top of you, the more likely you are to get somewhere – even if its not quite where you expected.

  2. “So, I must be taken as I have been made. The success is not mine, the failure is not mine, but the two together make me.”

    ― Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

  3. A brilliant piece of writing and spot on. My daughter went through a very similar thing last year and being the sort of person she is, she banished the disappointment, picked herself up and continued on her way. Both her mum and i said very similar things to those that you wrote. Everyone fails during a lifetime. Its what you do afterwards that matters.

  4. Why is this school one of the most selective and competitive schools in the country? That doesn’t just happen. Several people worked together to make it that way, and that result can be replicated by other people committed to a similar goal for their own school. Even if you are alone in your quest for excellence, libraries and the internet make learning ANYTHING possible for ANYONE. Bloom where you’re planted.

  5. It is said that success is in fact the result of many combined failures. X

  6. “Don’t hide your failures.
    Failures are nothing to be ashamed of (see lesson 1.) Talk to your friends and family about what went wrong. They may be able to help, or at least offer some comfort. Even if they can’t help you, telling them your story might help them. Keeping things secret never helps anyone.”

    You don’t hear this advice very often. We do tend to hide our failures, but that prevents us from learning from others.

  7. I think a good way to look at it is that failures are what we must go through, and learn from, to reach success. When we see someone else succeed, we rarely notice all their prior failures, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t happen.

  8. Or as some great sportsman or coach or what-have-you said: “Everyone gets knocked down. Success is about how fast you get back up.” (Now where were you when I had an 11-year-old in the house?)

  9. Your blog made me cry…

    As did Robin’s poetic reaction…. Do with it what you want…

    Sharon

  10. Pingback: A Pessimist’s View on Inspiration – a poem | Blog Blogger Bloggest

  11. I recently heard about a study that was done that found a relationship between how successful a person became and where they applied to school. In other words, the better the school that a person applied to, the better they did in life. The most interesting thing about this is that it didn’t matter one bit if the person was accepted or rejected into the schools. What mattered is that by applying to these schools, they could see themselves at that level that they aimed for, and this is what impacted their future success. So, you were spot on when you wrote ” Most people don’t even apply. You did, so you are already way ahead of the majority.” Congrats to your young friend.

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