Failure Is Not an Option

I think the meaning of “Failure Is Not an Option” has changed in our children’s generation. Growing up, I always associated that phrase with an unyielding determination to succeed at something. And success was more than just not failing.

Somewhere along the way, “Failure Is Not an Option” morphed to “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” in our kids’ generation. And very probably, it is our generation’s doing. The desire to not fail has become the removal of failure as an option. Whether it is sports, school, music, or even popular games, failure is increasingly rare. Conversely (maybe perversely), success is also growing rare.

While I believe that discouraging kids is a bad thing, and that everyone should have the chance to rise to his or her own potential, I worry that we are raising a generation of coasters. If you remove the fear of failure, and you remove the rewards of success, do you not also remove the incentive to do more than just hang with the pack? And if no one is pushing the envelope, doesn’t the performance of the pack as a whole deteriorate over time? I already see this in my kids and their friends. They aren’t hungry for anything.

And what about the future for our kids? Will their Hakuna Matata philosophy grow up with them? Will they not have to worry about being fired from jobs, making bad investments, or being dumped by lovers? I somehow doubt that. The real world is not nearly so insular as the bubble in which we’ve raised our kids. I fear that when the inevitable failures of life befall them, they will react with disbelief and panic. Ultimately, they will hold others responsible. After all, for them, failure was not an option.

Music of the Night

I’ve had more culture in the last three days than I have in the last three years. But I suppose it’s good for me now and again.

We were in Toronto this past weekend to see Mama Mia. It was really quite good, despite the lead passing out during one of the scene changes. You just don’t expect them to announce an understudy coming in during Act 2. But they handled it very professionally and the show went off wonderfully. I admit to being curious how you could make an entire show out of Abba music, but it fell together into a delightful tale. Really enjoyable.

We also took in Tony and Tina’s Comedy Wedding while we were there. I doubt this counts as culture, but it was fun. The actors really behave as if they are your friends and family and the interactions can be pretty interesting. It’s an entire wedding and reception packed into 2 hours – complete with drunken relatives, family fights, and the chicken dance. I’ll admit that I was a bit frightened when Kim conjured up a pretty decent Italian accent and took the groom to task for getting married and not waiting for her. And I got mine when one of the waitresses (they were in character too) came up and asked if I remembered her. I went along and said that she looked familiar, but I couldn’t place her. Then I asked if we used to play together when we were little. Without missing a beat she said, “Honey, I wasn’t even alive when you were little.” Feeling about a hundred years old at that moment, we finally decided that I knew her dad. Fer cryin’ in yer beer…

Then last night we went to see The Phantom of the Opera movie. Kim laughed, Kim cried… I had popcorn. I never did see the stage performance, and maybe that was part of it. Perhaps it was also that the tale was well worn, so there really weren’t any intriguing plot devices. But I just didn’t find the story compelling. The music was great, and I will admit that I keep finding myself mulling the tunes over in my mind today. There were a couple of really good performances by the actors, and the cinematography was great. But the story just seemed to drag. The phantom came off as pitiable, not scary. The only character you cared about was Christine, and you knew she was never in any real danger. Oh well. Perhaps I had just reached my culture threshold…