The merits of failure

I wanted to be an astronaut, an archaeologist and a paleobotanist. Because Dr. O'Connell has a nice ring to it.

Last week I was hanging out with a friend and she told me something I couldn’t believe: In an effort to protect the self-esteem of children, some communities are introducing team sports without winners and losers.

This baffles me. How is a person supposed to know what he or she is good at if she doesn’t fail at something? If you really want to play baseball, and you’re not much good at it, isn’t it better for you to know early on? That way you can start working to get better at baseball, or you can decide that all the practice isn’t worth it to you and turn to something else. But failure is very useful because it forces us to confront our weaknesses.

I never really played team sports, but I can clearly remember a time when failure forced me to reevaluate my own aspirations. When I was a kid, I wanted to be an astronaut. Or any kind of scientist, really. I thought I’d be a good archaeologist. I thought about going into geology, or marine biology, or paleobotany, or anything that required a white lab coat.

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