Keep Your Head Up When You Stumble

Westwood Schools Alumnus, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Hilliard, (soon to be a Colonel in the Army) spoke to our students today. As he talked about success and failure, he said something incredible,

“If your head is up when you stumble and you're looking forward, then you will see an open door.” Lt. Colonel Robert Hilliard, US Army

This is a man who knows struggle. From leading troops who disarmed IED's in Northern Baghdad to helping construct hospitals to help with the Ebola Crisis in Africa, Lt. Col. Hilliard is one of those who handles stress and difficult things for a living. I admire him very much.

But I think this point is an important one.

Keep your head up.

Why we shouldn't hang our heads

Life is tough. You will fail. You will get knocked down. You will have problems. I will too. Problems, failures, and struggle are part of the human condition. No one is exempt. Struggles come to us all.

But when we hang our heads, we look down. We only see our feet. We only see our failure. We look at the ground. Or even worse, we look at the pit that we have fallen into.

We look at the debt. We look at the anger of others. We look at the mistakes that landed us here. We look at where the problem has landed us. And we feel sorry for ourselves.

When Your Head is Down, You Can't Look in the Mirror

Hanging our heads is a helpless position. We can't even look in the mirror when our head is down.

Part of progress is often being sorry for our mistakes and to learn how not to make them and turn from doing it again. If our problem is of our own making, we have to do that if we want to prevent the problems in the future.

There are those people who lose every single job because of a “bad boss.” Well, either they are horrific at picking jobs or the problem is closer to home and stands in their sneakers and puts on their pants every morning. And when families enable this behavior without helping the person understand that their absenteeism or defensiveness or anger or irresponsibility is part of the problem – it will repeat itself. And this part is hard.

But the person you're trying to “help” isn't going to get better hanging their head. They have to look up and look into the eyes of those who love them and learn how to improve their behavior so their situation can change. We can all learn from problems.

Holding Your Head Up

However, in many cases, after you've examined yourself to learn what you need to do to improve your part of the situation it is time to find the next step when:

  • You didn't get the promotion you wanted at work.
  • The person you loved didn't love you back.
  • You had a financial disaster and your savings is gone and you're in a mess.

Keep your head up and look for what's next.

Keep your head up and look for what you can learn.

Keep your head up and find people who can help you improve.

Keep your head up and look for the next opportunity.

Some of the greatest things that have happened to me were failures. The things I didn't win. The awards I didn't get. The opportunities that fell through. The mistakes I made where I actually learned from them and turned away from doing them again.

The times when I hung my head, I missed out. I missed out on improving myself in my self-pity. I missed out on opportunities. And sometimes I missed out on talking to people who love me and wanted to be with me in the trouble.

But, Robert is right. If we can learn to keep our head up when we stumble, we might just look forward and see an open door.

And that, my friends, is failing with excellence.

This post is day 44 of 80 days of excellence. I've created an email list below for those of you want to be emailed the full posts written as part of this series.

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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The Cool Cat Teacher Blog
Vicki Davis writes The Cool Cat Teacher Blog for classroom teachers everywhere