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.