Failure and the Wisdom Gathered

 It was in grade three where I was hit by the incredible harshness and cruelty of the real world. I failed grade three.

How do you fail grade three?

At eight years old, I was branded, categorized and labeled as a failure in the school system. I was chastised by my past teachers, given an “I told you so” by one of them.

 I was ridiculed by the kids that had now moved on to grade four. The new kids coming into grade three treated me like I was slow, dumb and stupid. The term “He doesn’t work up to his full potential” was put into my permanent personal file and it followed me for the rest of my life in the public school system. All of the kids I had grown up with didn’t want me around anymore now because they were smarter than I was. I didn’t know any of the younger kids.

 Try to imagine how a child feels when he is rejected by the school system, rejected by all of the people he had once called friends and labeled as a stupid dumb failure.

Try to imagine the fear, guilt and shame a child feels when he is punished by a system that he does not understand nor can he defend himself against.

Try to imagine the impact that this kind of perceived injustice has on a child’s self-confidence, self-image, self-worth and self-esteem.

Is it any wonder that I developed a hatred for the entire school system and most people in a position of authority?

 I learned that the school system was in business to sustain its own power and authority first and foremost. To do that, the school system had to demand obedience from the students, the teachers and the administrators. The system then established guidelines to control and punish offenders. Once the command structure was in place, the school system dictated the curriculum, timetables and standards measurements.

 What I saw was that the system sustainability was far more important than the students it purported to serve. I learned that the students were not the important part of the equation. The students just seemed to be a by-product of the school system’s output. It seemed that compliance with the school system’s rules, regulations, demands and expectations was the key to survival.

 Having suffered at the hands of the school system, I chose to depress but I did not choose to rebel. I put up with the humiliation and stigma from grades three through nine. These grades were not particularly notable in my memory accept for my resolve that I would be successful in spite of what the school system appeared to have done “to me” and not because of what it could have done “for me”.

 I made up my mind that I was going to succeed without the formal education that everyone seemed to think so highly of. And, if they thought I didn’t live up to my potential, then I was going to prove them right. I was a hare’s breath away from failing each of those years, but I could ace almost any test in math I wanted. I had no interest in school mostly because school had no interest in me.

 The upside of this catastrophe in my life was that I chose to develop the strength to beat them at their own game. I chose to learn how to manipulate the system to get what I wanted. I worked hard to show those people who thought they were in a position of power and control, that I had out smarted them, that I had gone around them, that I did not need them or their permission to become successful.

 I learned that the teachers and administrators were just as frustrated by the system as I was, maybe even more. I began to experiment with behaviours in the classroom that showed my defiance. I would be mouthy just enough to be thrown out of the classroom but not enough to be tossed out of the school. The principal and I were on a first name bases, not buddies but advisories so to speak. I learned how to push his buttons just far enough to make him angry but not far enough to suspend me. This was a game I got good at and I enjoyed every minute of it. I was now in control of the teachers and the principal. I was learning the art of “Influence”. Revenge is so sweet but not necessarily healthy.

 The annoying part of all of this is that I owe this abusive and antiquated school system philosophy a debt of gratitude. I have developed some of the skills and strengths I have today only because I chose to learn how to survive the abuse and punishment of the school system I was forced to live in.

 What I have learned is that I will be forced to endure many things in my life that will be external and that I will have absolutely no control over. I will have to suffer through these things. I could become bitter and vindictive or I could choose to learn some of the valuable skills being offered by these aggravations.

 I began to give myself permission to feel the frustration, but not to just react out of habit. Habits are the reactions that I adopted as I was growing up (mostly by watching how other people acted). They were based on retaliation and revenge because I felt morally justified in defending myself.

 But what I began to do was to stop for a moment and ask myself, “How can I use the aggravation to my advantage? How can I benefit from this?” This was not easy because I had to make a conscious decision to break the defensive reactions cycle. This was a “Self-Management” process demonstrating that learning from experiences really pays off.

The wisdom I gathered here was:

Stop reacting and using old habits just because some of them worked before.

I began to look for & learn some new Skills”.

        I learned the art of “Influence” (How to control and manipulate people.)

        I did not need anyone’s permission to become successful.

 “Failure is a state of mind just as Success is a state of mind”. So, I learned how to recognize my old habits and to learn and apply some new skills.

 ”When someone hands you a lemon, make lemon aid, but then sell it and make twice as much as the guy that gave you the lemon in the first place”.

 I learned to look beyond the abuse and injustice to recognize the opportunity for growth and experience.

 I knew in my heart that I was going to be a success in spite of the mistreatment I received.


“I’ll show them a thing or two!”

         Douglas Jones


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