Fake news? No. Those were my exact words this morning during new student orientation. But listen, please, for the context of my remarks.
I recently observed an endearing moment while on a walk in my neighborhood: A young boy, perhaps 5 years old, was learning to ride a bike, with his mom and dad helping him. The boy would sit on the bike, with anticipation and a little fear in his face, and his father would gently push him forward and let go. Within seconds, the front wheels would begin to wobble, and the boy would crash. But he would hop up, run the bike back to his father and say, ‘Again, Daddy.’ The father gently pushed, the bike would wobble, then, wobble some more, and crash. ‘Again Daddy.’ I watched this happen at least five times as I walked passed this young family, and when I rounded the block ten minutes later, they were still at it. But then a break-through moment occurred: For 20 glorious seconds, he rode the bike without crashing, shouting with electric joy, ‘I’m doing it! I’m doing it!’ as his parents cheered and clapped for him.
This was a wonderful moment in a young boy’s life. But what was fascinating to me was the boy’s relentless desire to succeed, even though he kept crashing. Some where along the way as we grow up, we stop taking risks. We “play it safe” for fear of failure. We don’t want to be laughed at, we don’t want to be ostracized for being wrong, we are fearful of rejection.
I hope St. Michael will be a place that’s the opposite of that—where you will have the courage to risk failure. I hope you’ll try out for a team, even if you get cut or don’t play much. I hope you’ll run for student government, even if you’re not elected. I hope you’ll ask a girl out, even if she says no, or that if you’re a girl, you’ll say yes, even if “he’s not your type.” I hope you’ll volunteer an answer in class, even if it’s wrong. Ladies, studies show that beginning in middle school, you too often take a back seat to the boys in class, unwilling to challenge their ideas or declare your independent thoughts. I hope you’ll do the opposite at St. Michael—that you’ll speak out, even if it means you’ll have to tell a boy he’s wrong.
I want you to fail often because that means you’re trying new things, taking risks, exploring new possibilities often. The electric joy we feel, like this boy learning to ride a bike for the first time, comes in achieving things we work hard for. It’s what makes life such a fantastic adventure!
As you begin your time at St. Michael, pray that God will give you the courage to try new things. Pray that he will give you the courage to fail!