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.