I’ve been watching Hailey for the last couple of months experimenting with stickers and paper to see what will stick where. As I’ve been watching her play it makes me wonder about myself and my willingness to experiment with various aspects of my life and learn from failure.

The stickers I’m referring to are her potty stickers. Each time she successfully uses the potty she gets a sticker. I usually let her pick the sticker she wants and she watches my put it on her potty poster next to the toilet.

We’ve been doing this for 5 months now.

I usually let her play with some of the other stickers in the package that aren’t suitable for potty tracking.

She’s taken to pulling off stickers, sticking them to her skin, sticking them to my face, jamming them in my mouth, and attempting to shove them in her mouth and the toilet when she thinks she can get away with it.

One Saturday afternoon about two months ago, we were sitting in the living room and Hailey was taking magazines out of the drawer, ripping off sections and running to the washroom.

She was doing this over and over again. Finally I went and looked in the bathroom and found a bunch of pieces of paper scattered in front of the toilet.

What was she doing?

Then she comes running in the washroom and approaches the potty poster. Standing on her tip toes she extends the bit of magazine up and touches it to the poster. It falls to the ground. She tries again. It falls to the ground.

She runs out to the living room to get another piece.

I was fascinated by this…she was trying to stick the paper to the poster. She was trying to figure out why the papers wouldn’t stick but the stickers do.

This has been an on-going experiment for the last couple of months.

She has now given up on papers and moved on to a similar experiment with our fridge magnets.

So, as I’ve watched these experiments, they really start to make me reflect on my life and the idea of trying new things and failing.

I watch Hailey try figure out answers, try to solve problems. She tries and essentially fails repeatedly. She isn’t ashamed by her unsuccessful attempts. She’s not worried that other people will think she’s stupid for trying.

She’s not afraid of failing. She knows she can learn from failure.

It makes me wonder when this changes. When do we become afraid to fail? When do we become afraid to try (and then fail by default)?

As I’m observing her, it makes me realize that the fear related to failure is a learned behaviour. Which means it can be prevented. And also that I may be able to impact this as her parent either negatively or positively.

As I listen to successful people tell their stories of how they achieved success and the risks and sacrifices they made to get there I often feel the resistance in my body….I could never do that. I could never take that big of a risk. I could never go that far off the norm.

Why is this belief ingrained in me? I’ve heard enough success stories to know that people who take risks get big results. People who are the most successful have the most failures. We learn from failure. Failure is how we progress. Failure is how we become better and more successful.

I know this outwardly and I believe this. But I can also feel that there are rooted beliefs deep within me that hold me back.

So as I reflect on Hailey I see that she’s different.

I see the courage in her eyes. I see the belief in herself. I see the unapologetic failures. And I see the lack of importance she puts on failure.

Oh, that doesn’t work. No big deal. Let’s try something different.

I want her to have that belief for the rest of her life.

We often put so much weight on getting it right and we have so much fear that we might get it wrong. Might look stupid. The fear paralyzes us.

Why do we often choose not to try and therefore fail by default then to really go after something we want for fear that we may not get it?

Why would we rather live safe and mediocre lives then dare to pursue what we’re passionate about?

I was talking to a friend of mine who is on the verge of bankruptcy. I was inspired by her attitude. She said they can take my house and all my possessions. At the end of the day it’s just stuff. They can’t take my family and the friendships I’ve built. That’s the most important.

She’s had a fun few years pursuing a career she’s passionate about.

Yet many of us would see this as epic failure, stressful and devastating news, and be embarrassed to talk about it.

But it many ways, it’s similar to Hailey and her stickers.

Ok, I’ve tried that. That doesn’t work. Let’s try something different. No big deal.

I want that attitude.

Life’s too short to be afraid to try.