The Gift of Failure

“Failure is so important. We speak about success all the time. It is the ability to resist failure or use failure that often leads to greater success. I’ve met people who don’t want to try for fear of failing.” – J.K. Rowling

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A couple of weeks ago, you tried out for an AAU elite travel team. Now, you already how much I absolutely detest AAU teams – although, I’ll admit, it has allowed me to see some awesome locations, meet wonderful people, and play against some of the most talented basketball players to ever walk on a court. The problem is, I have also witnessed the dark side of elite basketball — but, I won’t get into that now; that is for another time.

Honestly, Honey, as we wait for this letter to come in the mail, I keep hoping we receive bad news.

I honestly hope you don’t make the team.

Bear with me…

Listen, I may be a little biased, but whenever you walk into the gym, you are the best player there. You have the size, you have the speed, you can shoot, you can use your left hand, and you have the drive. But, more than anything, you have fun, you are social, you are humble, and you are smart; and that is what I love (and will continue to love) most about your game. I am proud of you every time you step out on the court because I know your competitiveness will compel you to make the most of your abilities as well as make your teammates better. Yes, I will admit, as your coach, when your team falls short — or when you have a terrible game, I am upset. I am upset until I look over at you, joking and laughing with your teammates as if you guys don’t have a care in the world. Basketball is just a game to you; you know you are good at it, but you are there to have fun and socialize.

That being said…

If you are selected for an elite AAU team, there is a whole new dynamic to consider…

Winning.

Man, o’ man. Little girl, you will be expected to win. Not only will you be expected to show up to a tournament and produce, but, when you do not produce, you will sit the bench until you are able to produce (which could be a while dependent on if your replacement has a hot hand). You will need to practice your craft on your own time — no excuses! It does not matter if you are the best player on any given day; you need to be the best player on that specific day. The expectation is for you to show up to a tournament, hours away from your home, and claw and scratch your way to a championship. Period.

Look, I am not here to bash AAU or crush your dream, but, my job as your father is to protect you. That job requires me to deem what is, and is not, appropriate for you given your age and maturity level, whether that be cell phones, music, movies, boys, and yes, basketball. And frankly, right now, I don’t think you are ready.

Is there a side of me that wants you to make it? Yes! But I have come to realize that it is the part of me that is selfish, self-serving, and competitive. Of course I want to show everybody that I produce the best of the best. But that is not right.

So, here’s to you staying young, having fun, and not making the team.

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For the record:

Weeks later, I found out that you, in fact, did not make it…

“Unfortunately, She was not selected for our 6th grade team.  We had so many girls at that level trying out this year and looked at each one very carefully before making our decision. 

We highly encourage your daughter to try out again next October.

Thank you.”

Okay. Now, let’s make them regret that decision…

Allow Me to Introduce Myself…

If you grow up in my neighborhood, you have already practiced overcoming adversity. You were supposed to be some kind of negative statistic. You were told from a young age that you would be dead, on drugs, or in Cook Inlet Correctional by the time you were eighteen. Not by people who actually live in your neighborhood, but by those who claim that their data is an accurate predictor of outcomes.

If you grow up in my neighborhood, it is not problem when your college advisor refuses to give you a letter of recommendation so you can move on with your studies; you weren’t supposed to be there anyway, now were you? But you don’t fret. You persevere. You find another way – because that is what your hood trained you to do. And one day, it will pain her to have to shake your hand.

If you grow up in my hood, you are not afraid to stick up for your rights, question authority, or choose another path to success. You’ve witnessed good people get lead astray everyday, dreams deferred, futures crushed. Why would you blindly trust someone to steer the wheel to your future? You’re not going out like that. So, when your boss threatens to cut your pay or take your job if you don’t agree to his illegal terms, you don’t bat an eye. Instead – you say, “I guess I’ll see you in court.” You watch as the papers are delivered.

If you grow up in my hood, you don’t mind when you got overlooked for opportunities… when those way less qualified than you are placed ahead of you… when you are told that you are too, “Rough around the edges.” You get pissed, but you don’t lash out. You save that anger. You don’t make excuses. You say to yourself, “I will make them all sorry they did not choose me!” And you try harder — you do better. You win awards, you acquire accolades. And when you see those people next, you make them have no other choice but to respect you. They will ask “Why did you leave?” And you politely smile.

If you grow up in my hood, you hate the words, “Well that’s how it has always been.” It only means that there is going to be a door closed in your face or an opportunity that you won’t recieve because of established norms or customs that you didn’t have shit to do with. You do everything in your power to change the establishment. You don’t depend on others to do it. You don’t wait your time. You don’t use the proper procedures. You need this to happen now and you will be seen and heard! You already know how short life is and your time is now. Damn kid — maybe you are rough around the edges.

If you grow up in my hood, you are able to adapt to any situation and assimilate to any population. It does not matter who it is or what they stand for — you have grown up in one of the most diverse places in the United States and attended the most diverse schools in the United States. You have muliple dialects and an expansive vocabulary. When needed, you can choose to be prim, proper and articulate; or you can be just one of the homies. You have it all, and people are impressed by you — “you’re so “cultured.”‘

If you grow up in my hood, you walk with your head high. Some will mistake it for cockiness, but you’re not cocky. Cocky is for those who speak a good game – you let your actions speak. You say what you mean and you mean what you say. You don’t mince words and you fear no one.

If you grow up in my hood, you know loyalty when you see it. You live by it. You could have taken the more pleasurable route. You could have transferred to a better high school; you could have gone to a bigger college somewhere else; you could have transferred at the end of your freshman year after going 0-10. You’re no quitter. If you commit to something, then, dammit, it is going to be completed come Hell or high water. You’ll blaze your own path. You’ll take the unbeaten. What the Hell do you have to lose?

If you grow up in my hood, you were destined for greatness and respect. You were built to lead. You were made you rewrite history books. Damn what other people say, you’ve been mislabeled, marginalized, and undervalued your entire life. Seems like you came out okay.

I’m from The View.

But you knew that already, didn’t you?

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