The Myth of Failure – An Open Letter to My Daughters

The Myth of Failure – An Open Letter to My Daughters

Failure is a negative word in our society and I simply don’t believe it should have that failuremuch power. Failure is an opportunity to learn. Failure means that you took a risk to try something new, something different. Failure gives you an opportunity to grow through challenges. I’ve heard a few adults talk about things they won’t do because they are afraid of failing themselves or others. That bothers me. Life is short – live it! 

As a Mom I have a powerful influence over my daughters and their perception of failure. I want to make sure my girls know what failure truly is, and what it is not. I want to make sure I am not the type of person that has children afraid to experience all life has to offer because they are afraid of failing themselves – or worse – me.

My Beautiful Girls,

I hope you read this letter when you are feeling scared, unsure of yourself, unsure of your next steps, or when you just feel like a failure.  I want you to read it – a lot. I hope that as you read this you gain the strength and the courage to take chances in life.  Don’t ever let the fear of failure hold you back.  So many people go through life scared of failure – and they miss out on the greatest parts of being alive.

First, I have to admit something…I have failed.  Many times. I will fail again.  Does this make me a failure?  No!  There are times that I feel like a failure in life, and you will too.  However, I hope in those moments you remember what I say in the rest of this letter.

There are really two different ways to fail at life. 

  1. You fail to try because you are afraid to fail.
  2. You fail because you tried

Girls, if you fail to try because you are afraid to fail, then I have failed you as a parent.

You will fail in life.  No one is perfect.  So what does it really mean to fail?

Failure is…

  • Quitting when you are not the best. Never quit just because something is difficult. Choose to end certain activities because you have found something you are more passionate about.  Prioritizing your life is important – you cannot do it all.  Never quit in frustration – you will get through it, and you will discover some amazing things about yourself at the end of that tunnel.
  • Being scared to love with your entire heart. I am very guilty of this.  Your father gave me the greatest gift I have ever been given – the gift of unconditional love.  He loved me from the beginning of our relationship until the end.  Without question, without doubt.  He loved me at my best, worst, and everywhere in between.  Never settle for less, and never give less.  Yes, you will get hurt by doing this.  It is scary. But loving with anything less than your best-self will only short change you.  Take the risk.
  • Not communicating. When you don’t communicate you don’t give others the chance to help.    I don’t mean whining, complaining, or anger.  I mean the simple act of telling someone how you are feeling, what you would like to change, and what support you need to be successful.  This is another one I am not good at, but I’ve gotten better through writing.  You will find that I write down my biggest challenges and that is OK.  Everyone needs a little help or support sometime.  Find a way that works for you.
  • Pretending to be someone you are not. You do not need to be anyone other than yourself – you are beautiful.  Don’t copy anyone – you can never be a better version of another person.  You were put here on Earth for a reason, never forget that.
  • Lack of kindness. There are mean people in this world.  They are failing themselves, their friends, family, and anyone that has to be around them.  Being mean or negative is VERY easy.  Never take the easy road and always be true to yourself.  Be compassionate toward others and you will find success in all you do.
  • Being scared to fail me. If you take anything away from this, please understand that you will never fail me. Your failure is my failure and I am here to help you through it. I may be disappointed in your decisions, but I also know that you have to make some mistakes to learn. My disappointment will be short-lived and we will look for solutions together. I am your number one fan. I will always love you. Be true to yourself, your morals, and your values.  Don’t ever limit your life because you are afraid to fail me.

Failure is NOT…

Failure is not…Doing your best and not achieving your dream.  This is the old “shoot for the moon and land among the stars” analogy. Dreams change.  Mine have changed so many times in my life it is dizzying.  However, I have always worked towards a dream until I decided that my dreams had changed.  You will live, you will learn, and you will find new passions.  Never be afraid to dream a new dream.  Sometimes you have the choice, sometimes you will be thrust into a new reality that requires you to change your dreams even when you don’t want to.

Failure is not…Final. When (not if) you fail realize that your failure can impact you for any amount of time that you let it.  Don’t let failure stick with you for a long period of time.  Pick yourself up, own up to what happened, and do what you can to correct it.  Then, commit to doing better the next time – there will be a next time!

Failure is not…A reflection of your value as a person. We all fail. You are not defined by your successes or your failures. You are defined by your character, your integrity, and the “how” of your life – not the “what”.  You will be remembered for how you handled the failure not the failure itself.

Failure is not…Defined by anyone other than you. What you see as a failure may be seen as a breakthrough opportunity to another individual.  Be hard enough on yourself so you commit to learning from the event or decision, but don’t be too hard on yourself. How you handle the tough times is a much better judge of character than how you handle the good times.

My greatest failures in life revolve around my fear of being me. I wasn’t true to my character, my values, or who I truly am as a person.  In many cases, I was afraid to fail others and that fear led me to fail myself.

I want you to know you don’t have to be perfect or have all the answers – I will be here for you as you learn, grow, succeed, and fail.  As your mom I will try to protect you even when I can’t, and I will be there to pick you up when you fall.

Finally, when I think about failure I wonder if the things I feel like I fail at today will be relevant at the end of my days. Almost always that answer is NO! Life is the big picture. Be true to you, and you will not fail in life. When I am gone, I hope you can say that I was a good mother that supported you and helped you achieve your dreams – whatever they may be.  I hope people say that I worked hard, but I balanced my life and prioritized my family first. I hope people remember me for the positive impact I had on their life, which means I made a difference to people. If people can say these things about me – then girls, I did not fail in life.

R & K, you make my life worth living and I am blessed to be your mom. We are a team – we will win and lose together many times, but there is no one else on Earth I’d rather have on my team.

I love you,


Remembering My Anniversary – Year 3

Today is the celebration of the best day of my life.  Eight years ago I was lucky enoughopost_ceremony0038_DSC_0063f to marry the best person I had ever met.  Today is my 8 year wedding anniversary, only it isn’t. Today is my third wedding anniversary without my husband. Writing this seems
unreal. How is this the start of the third everything? I love Steve more today than I ever have. Every day I appreciate him more. Every day he makes me a better mom, a better friend, a better person. How could this be my third anniversary alone?

Last week was Steve’s second angel-versary, and it seems surreal that it has been that long. I don’t know where the time has gone, and I honestly have no idea how I have made it without him. I feel like I have aged 20 years, but with that age comes some great reflections on life. Steve loved to teach and learn, so I thought I would share a few things I’ve learned on my journey.  I’ve learned a lot about myself and a lot about what it means to not only survive, but to thrive.

  1. Attitude really is everything. I have good days and bad days, but the difference now is that I know just how much control I have in my life. I do not get to choose what happens to me, but only I have the power to choose how I respond. How I respond is a reflection of who I am as a person – good or bad.
  2. Grief doesn’t stop. I thought the second year would be easier than the first. I was wrong. There are different challenges, but that doesn’t make it easier. I haven’t made it through a week without some song or memory causing tears while I drive. There are times I wish for my best friend, the person who just knew what to do without words. There is not another person on this Earth that can fill that spot. And I grieve the loss of those feelings, the memories that won’t be made, and the loss of someone who so positively impacted my life.
  3. Life doesn’t stop either. All of us only get a certain number of days on Earth and no one can tell us when our time will be up. Every moment I spend with a poor attitude or focusing on what I lost versus what I have is time that I don’t get back. That is time that I am not giving my best self to the people that I still have in my life. I still grieve, yet I am thankful for the wonderful gift that Steve was to me in life. There are things I miss about the past, but I also have a pretty great present. It is much different than I ever imagined, but different doesn’t mean bad.
  4. Dreams change. Steve and I had dreams together, and they all ended the day he died. All of my future plans were gone. I am a “type A” personality, and I no longer had a goal. I no longer had a direction. For me to move forward I had to identify new dreams. I needed to be brave enough to dream again because I always want my daughters to dream. The new dreams I created have already changed, and that hasn’t always been easy. To me it has felt like a loss all over again, but at the same time it has made me realize that I need to spend more time focusing on the present while still seeing a dream on the horizon. I don’t need to know all the answers or understand how it all works – even though I desperately want to.
  1. I am stronger than I give myself credit for. People comment on how “strong” I am. I don’t always believe them. They don’t see me hiding out in a garage because I can’t stop crying and I don’t want anyone (especially my kids) to see it. They don’t see the mom that feels like a failure because I don’t meet my own expectations of mom-perfectionism. They don’t see the inner struggle that I have just to function some days. I’m really good at putting on a “strong” face to the world. However, when I really stop to think, I realize just how much I have handled. My kids are happy, healthy, and safe. They know they can talk about their Daddy at any time and it is a safe and positive conversation. I am capable of providing everything my children need and a lot of what they want (good or bad!). I have a career that I enjoy. I volunteer when I can, and am looking forward to helping other widows in the future. I am 2 weeks away from finishing the MBA program that Steve and I started together. I have started another relationship and chose to love again.

There is an inner voice in all of us, and what it says is powerful. Make sure that voice builds you up, not puts you down – you are stronger than you give yourself credit for!

  1. Leave a legacy, everyday. We don’t know when our life will end. Someday it will end. If your life ended today, would people remember you the way you would want to be remembered? What would they say about you? Steve left a legacy at the age of 39. Someone once told me that Steve’s legacy was more impactful than most people that live to be 100. Two people came up and told me at his funeral that Steve’s friendship and life coaching literally saved their life. Steve and I had talked once about how we would want to be remembered, and it is so humbling to realize that he was remembered exactly the way he had hoped – a man dedicated to his family and friends first, community second, and his career third.

What legacy do you want to leave?

Starting the third year of events without Steve is daunting. I wonder what life would be like if he had not died. If I really stop to think about that I can honestly say that I would still have my old dreams. I would have a different career, and I would still be living in my house in a town that was familiar. Steve and I would have worked through more challenges as a couple, and would have come out even stronger each time.

When I pause that thought and think about the present I realize that because I lost Steve I became a better person, a better parent. I love Steve even more now because I appreciate how much positive impact he has had on my life. I cannot overestimate how many times I have struggled and just focused my thoughts around what Steve would say or do in certain situations. I can hear my angel talking to me when I just take the time to listen. His words can still bring me back to reality. Powerful. I love more openly because I don’t want to live with regret. I am more compassionate.

I would give almost anything to be celebrating my 8 year wedding anniversary with my husband, but I can only do that in spirit. I am truly blessed to have had such an amazing person in my life. Every day I know I have a choice in how I handle my day. I try to wake up thankful for the gifts I do have in my life.  I have someone who kisses me good morning
, I have two girls that make my heart swell with love, and I have the best family and friends a person could ask for.

Today I will celebrate the life I had with a man who truly loved me unconditionally.  I will celebrate the memories we made and the person I am because of the love we had.

Live, laugh, love, and leave your legacy.