Lead by failure…


Lead by example. As leaders, as parents, as all-around good citizens, we’re always told to set the example. As an older brother growing up, the idea was drilled into me. Sometimes even spanked into me. Like somehow, if I messed up, my brother was sure to make the same mistake and we would both end up selling drugs on the corner and entering rehab way earlier than anyone in our small town expected. But that got me thinking. As a semi-functioning adult, I do truly believe in setting an example wherever I can.  Whether that be common courtesy in the grocery store or showing my son how to open doors for ladies, it’s a good policy to keep in play. But follow me here… is it possible to lead by failed example? Of course it is! It’s called learning from others mistakes. Some would even call this a great strategy in the game of golf. Making that 2 putt because your friend before you didn’t notice the pitch a little to the left.

I look at my son today and know with great confidence that the leadership I am, can and will show him is the best I can give. Along with showing him the best ways to scare mom, the not so smart things to throw at cars, the best way to ask a pretty girl out and the best way to get a nail out of your foot, I have the ability and the intellect to show him right from wrong. Good choices from bad choices. Respect from disrespect.

So, this may not seem that interesting. Yes, we all … well most of us know right from wrong. We know what not to teach and show our children. Society teaches us that. Hell, the latest and best rom-com shows us exactly how not to treat a woman, and if you mess it up, they even show you how to win her back. But as a dad living in the real world, you’d like to be able to look backward and use the skills your father showed you, or grandfather showed you, to instill those same traits in your own offspring. Those traits and values that fathers can only teach their children.  But where it gets interesting is when those, like me, who don’t have that example to give. We don’t have those memories of dad or grandpa sitting us down and telling us how a lady should be treated, how your money should be spent or even how to haggle for price at the car dealership. Yes, a lot of it we had to learn on our own, the hard way. But, and this is a big but, these mistakes made by our patriarchs are the same mistakes that helped me and my brother learn.

Until this day, I can’t tell you how we turned the tables. Plain and simple, we just got lucky (and had a mom to show us the finer points). Most every male role model in our life failed us. Grasping for straws, we turned to our mother. A tall order to fill, she gave it her all and was a great mother/father. However, there are still those things only a father could teach. When I say ‘turned the tables’ I mean not making the same mistakes… And this is where my point is finally made. My father and grandfather made more mistakes than a lifetime should be allowed. My brother and I took these mistakes, and just like a game of golf, we turned them into a 2 putt.

It’s hard for me to have empathy, sometimes, for those who blame failure on others, especially their parents. Discarding the abusive, drug addicted parents, I just can’t validate those excuses reasons. I expect most fully functioning humans to realize when mistakes are made and to learn from your mistakes. As a matter of fact, learning from your mistakes is on the top ten list of son teachings. I mean, right up there with don’t vomit on your date and don’t forget to put on clean underwear.

So, yes, ideally, we’d all love to have the perfect peers, parents and role models to learn from. Those masculine qualities, only a son/daughter need to learn. Yes, you heard me right.  Daughters need their daddies too (soon to be post). To take queues from the experiences they’ve had and to heed their instructions. But without those instructions, how do you know where to go? How do you know which path is the path of greater greatness? My advice? Ask mom…


Photo credit: http://markdroberts.com/?p=458

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