Few young people know the importance of failure, and even fewer are ready to willingly risk it. Each person was at some point apprehensive of making a mistake. The fact that being successful is probably the most promoted value in today’s society does not help alleviate that pressure. On the contrary, families, teachers, managers, employers, and other authoritative figures expect their subordinates, children, and followers to excel. When they fail to do so, the usual response is immense dissatisfaction. It had been my mentality as well until a certain experience changed my viewpoint altogether. I learned that mistakes are an essential component of growth, and expecting immediate flawless execution is ineffective and disrespectful.
The Drive for Flawless Performance in Personal Experience
When I was in school, I attended a writing club, where students interested in writing would meet and present their creations to each other and the teacher. We would write a certain scene or a story at home and then read it out loud in the club. The last part was especially important because students could hear the mistakes that the author had made. The teacher pointed them out and encouraged each student to speak out and explain which aspects of the story were inconsistent. This way, we learned to write meaningful stories, engaging characters, and sometimes even some rhythmic poems.
Most of the time, my performance in the club was above average. Although I myself made many mistakes, I would always feel inspired afterwards to write more. During that period, I had a friend who was curious about our activities and expressed his desire to participate as well. However, I postponed his entrance to the club because I was afraid that his writing would be subpar compared to other members. Besides, the evaluation part of the meetings was always worrying to me. The teacher and other students were merciless at criticizing the aspects of the writing that were not of high quality.
I learned to control my apprehension, but I would always feel anxious whenever it was my turn. Naturally, my fear was even greater when I imagined my friend in front of the club failing and being ostracized. I was worried that such an occasion would make him appalled and demotivated to write anymore. So, I decided to prepare him before he could actually enter the club. We practised in a similar fashion – he would write a short story at home, and I would listen and pinpoint errors to him. However, it seemed to me that he did not improve. Whenever he wrote a sheet of paper, I would always see the mistakes. As a solution, I encouraged him to write using the same tropes and lexis as I did because I believed that it would make his writing better.
At one point, the teacher announced that we would present our best stories to the public. We would come out on the stage and read them aloud. There were some requirements; namely, there had to be at least one dramatic element, one joke, and an effective conclusion so that the audience would stay engaged the whole time. I was immediately enthused with such a perspective, but then another idea appeared in my mind.
I approached the teacher and asked him to let my friend also participate. The teacher was initially uncertain as he asked whether my friend had any writing experience. I confided that we had practised together, and his writing was of good quality. I showed him one of my friend’s stories with my corrections as proof. The teacher studied me for a moment and then gave me his permission. Naturally, my friend was anxious, but I ensured him that he would make an effective entrance if he did everything I would tell him to.
When the day finally came, I was extremely worried about my friend. I made every correction I could, hoping that the story was now flawless. As my friend walked on the stage, he was growing more agitated. The anxiety showed itself, as he did not articulate the drama of the story sufficiently. The audience missed the joke, and instead of applause, there was an awkward silence after the conclusion. It should not be a surprise that my friend no longer wanted to be a part of the club or even write anything.
After the event, the teacher approached me and explained that by delaying the friend’s entrance to the club, I also deprived him of the invaluable opportunity to make his own mistakes. I also realized that had I not been insistent on imposing my writing style on him, he would have developed his own style. Yet, my fear of him making errors was so strong that I could not accept any result that did not meet my expectations.
That day taught me that allowing people to make mistakes is the only way to foster growth. As time passed, I also understood that by imposing my corrections, I was also devaluing his efforts. It was highly inconsiderate of me and cost me my friendship. Subsequently, I changed my attitude towards criticisms of other students and became more forgiving and accepting of other people’s mistakes.
Overall, the purpose of this story is to showcase that the drive for flawless performance is self-defeating. Mistakes are an integral part of human nature, which should be embraced and processed into the experience. I believe that this story exemplifies the toxicity of society that praises success as the most precious value. The guilt of my failure to prepare my friend appropriately makes it memorable. I hope that it will teach people to resist the temptation to interfere with other people’s learning, and be patient and forgiving.