In life, failure is the greatest teacher. It sounds absurd to think in this direction but human experiences have shown that among all terrestrial institutions that shape our lives, failure ranks number one in a quiz of teachers.
All Terrestrial Institutions
There is a caveat: The ultimate greatest teacher is the Master, the Lord Jesus Christ whose lifestyle and principles transcend all spheres of human endeavours (from personal to community, leadership to business, corporate to nation building}, and ennobling when dutifully practised.
But, the focus of this discourse is to expound on failure as the greatest teacher in human experiences relative to other terrestrial institutions.
From the cradle to the grave, there are many teachers in the human life and experience.
The mother, father, school teachers, community, employers, and mentors are all teachers that groom the human from birth to a life of purposeful service to humanity. But, failure is the greatest of them all.
The Mother as a Teacher
In infancy, the mother is the primal tutor of the child. She deftly showers the baby with love, care and attention but strong and firm enough to instill a sense of humanity in it. This humanity awakens the baby’s natural instinct and aligns it with natal, parental and environmental realities contrary to the comforts of pre-natal life.
The new born does not always find the maternal sessions funny and always respond with cries, sometimes loud enough to parallel the hullabaloos of the Tower of Babel.
The mother is undeterred. The lessons have to be learnt, and the child will grow up to be grateful for the mother’s pristine love!
The Father as a Teacher
In formative years, the fear of the father is the beginning of wisdom. The father’s discipline surfaces as soon as the child begins to have a sense of accomplishment that it is outgrowing the mother’s managerial capacity. The former builds on the momentum of the later.
At this stage, the child is unable to have its ways and sigh silently that “life is not a bed of roses!” No learning in life comes easy! There is always a price to be paid.
And, the child begins to imbibe positive characteristics of truthfulness, respect, courtesy, integrity, timeliness, discipline, hardwork and learn skills on how to talk both at home and in public and put its needs across in a respectful way among others.
The School Teachers
Leaving the home for hours that will be spent in school is not an escape for the child as it thinks. The school teachers are waiting to provide information and rudimentary scholarly knowledge that lays the foundation for the child’s future of vocation, career and entrepreneurship.
The child is like a plant. A proper nurture will cause the plant to blossom and grow into its full potentials and glory. A plant that is not well handled will die.
There is no child that is born a useless being. There is no child that is born without a destiny. It is the teachers’ input of its formative life that either makes or mars the chances of success in life.
If a child will grow up to become a doctor, the traits will begin to manifest in early childhood. You know that a child is an engineer when he begins to dismantle its toys and reassemble them. The child who is fascinated with computers and phones may be the next Steve Jobs.
The teachers play a great role in shaping the destiny of children. Parents should be interested in the calibre of teachers who handle their children in schools.
It is not enough to pay a lot of money for your children’s education. You should be interested in the teachers who directly interface with and handle your children: their attitude, character, competences and perspectives about life.
The children mirror their teachers! They gravitate towards the ones who are firm and get them to work hard despite the fact that they sometimes resent them.
Most adults have this same experience: we hated our no-nonsense teachers who would not allow us to indulge in laziness and other counterproductive behaviours in schools but grew up to love and appreciate them later in life for their disposition that set the tone for our greatness and success in life. We now remember them with nostalgia: it was not always so when they were teaching us!
The Community as a Teacher
The child is growing up, and gradually a young adult is beginning to interact with his or her community. The community is the sphere of influence that seeks to sharpen the awareness of the young adult about himself or herself, and create a cluster of exchange, interactions and learning such as the family, environment, culture, value systems, and media among others.
The young adult will learn to give, receive, love and fellowship, and come to appreciate friendship, family and life. There will be moments of joy, and sadness; sunshine and cloud; tears and laughter; success and lack of it.
Yet the young adult will learn to adapt, persevere until he or she has grown up through the thick and thin of adversity to emerge a grown up adult that is ready to take on the world.
The Employer as a Teacher
You enter into the world of work. You are either self employed or working for someone. Either way, your employer could be your customers or organizations where you work pay your salaries.
You will soon realize that your employer has a new set of lessons to teach you in life about service and efficient delivery of it. Sometimes you kick and feel like giving up because the employer is too demanding. Service could be a pleasure or frustrating experience depending on the attitude you bring into it.
The bottom-line is that you learn to realize that the world does not revolve around you. You have to be humble and good at offering service before you can earn a decent living in the world of work.
In the world of work, everything is earned. Respect is earned. Money is earned. Satisfaction is earned. Luxury is earned. This is a cold reality to maladjusted adults who grow up as narcissistic children pampered by their parents or grandparents with a sense of entitlements that it is their right that the world must kowtow to their whims and demands. Tough lessons!
Get Yourself a Mentor
Your mentors will teach you more humility. Some successful people have gone ahead of you. You can learn from them. You are not an island. The path you are traveling now is a well trodden path by a host of successful people.
If you are smart, you will find these people and surround yourself with them in order to succeed in life.
You choose a mentor who will look at you in the face and tell you as it is. You need a mentor whom your spouse can report you to when you misbehave.
If you surround yourself with peers who lack the wisdom and discretion to manage life, you are going to make a shipwreck of your voyage of life.
The human nature does not like to submit to higher wisdom and leadership. But you will do yourself a world of good if you have a mentor and use his or her wisdom to guide your life.
Same but Unique
All these teachers share the certain characteristics with failure. But, failure surpasses them all in its uniqueness as the greatest in building human character and refining it for excellence and greatness beyond the finite capabilities of nature.
(Please watch out for the Part 2 of this article on LastDaysWatch.)
Author: Babatunde Fajimi
First published in The Union Newspaper on Sunday, April 12, 2015