How an 8th grader dealt with failure

I was in the 8th grade and had this idea– I wanted to start a soup kitchen instead of having to participate in the science fair for the 4th year in a row. Science fair was required back in the day and thankfully my science teacher had an alternative. We were allowed to do a “substantive project” instead of the usually required science fair competition. So I wrote a proposal for my science teacher on how this may work. We got a plan worked out. I was to basically write a report about homelessness and poverty. Then I spent time trying to talk to adults in my community who were “helping” and may or may not have wanted to spend time with a teen who wanted to do something in her community.

I had really wonderful adults in my life that mentored me. I also had parents who really believed that their children needed to figure things out on their own. When I went to them for help, they showed me how to turn on the computer and dot matrix printer and left me in the basement by myself.

To be fair, my mom also helped me brainstorm the name—The Dining Room.

Imagine this 8th grade girl who had worked so hard, convinced her church, St. Peter’s, to be the physical home and fiscal sponsor for The Dining Room. She made flyers and created her own crude “needs assessment.” Imagine the excitement when our “calculations” told us that approximately 100 hungry people would show up at our door. Then imagine the poor 8th graders’ confusion when the volunteers vastly outnumbered the guests.

Was it a failure? Did I cry in my soup? Did I lash out at the adults who told me this was a great idea?

It was not a failure.

There may have been tears in my lasagna. I won’t lie.

I knew it was a good idea. I knew people needed help. So we kept going.

My sister got married a year ago and at the reception Louella Hunter (chief 8th grader’s champion) pulled me close and told me that not only was The Dining Room going strong 19 yrs later, but that other churches in town had followed our model of providing community meals.

Sometimes you’re ahead of your time. Sometimes you need to tweak your execution plan. Sometimes you need a different/more champions. But don’t give up.

Ira Glass talks about the time between knowing what you want to execute and being good enough to actually create what is in your mind’s eye. While he is talking about creating art, I think it applies to anything that you hold dear that needs to be birthed (so to speak).

The time between having a good idea and the idea taking hold and flourishing can be different for everyone. Using other people’s experience can generate confusion and fear.

Have faith and go for it. I mean go for it like you mean it. Make mistakes like you mean it (and please fix them with the same gusto). It takes longer to be successful than it does for a webpage to load– so practice real patience.

Be afraid of regret—not failure.

What have you done to wait out the period between idea and amazing execution or going from novice to expert? Leave a message below and cheer each other on!

7 thoughts on “How an 8th grader dealt with failure

  1. What an inspiring example of “Can-Do!” I get so tired of citizens waiting for “Washington to help.”
    That’s not what our country was founded upon . IMHO less government is more. Let the people provide for themselves and others of their needy fellow Americans. We have long proven we are a nation that helps each other. Government often gets in the way (and takes our tax dollars away from us limiting what we can do to help others!)

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