How My 89 Year Old Grandpa Taught Me To Never Be Afraid To Fail

Last summer I sat in a golf cart with my grandpa and didn’t play a round of golf.

He had been diagnosed with COPD, diabetes, congestive heart failure, was on oxygen all the time, and survived polio and a quadruple bypass surgery (30 years ago). This man was a walking testament to the power of medicine and a positive attitude. If you asked him though, he wasn’t a diabetic anymore. My grandpa was 89 years old, and he still stood up and swung a golf club about as solid as I could. I think grandpa and I swung, maybe, 8 shots in the whole round and I lost a ball. However, I spent 2 hours in a golf cart with my grandpa, and that, was the best round of golf I ever played. We sat in the cart waiting for our family to tee off and I asked him, “what’s your life motto?”. He thought about it for a minute, and then told me, “I was never afraid to fail, because even if I failed, that meant that I had learned something”. We talked more and laughed a lot, and later that night, we went fishing in the old Lund boat. As I sat in the rocking boat watching the sun set, my grandpa’s wisdom reminded me of something; never be afraid to try.

A kitchen with a sink and a toaster oven

When we were kids, we were unstoppable. We weren’t afraid to fall down, we weren’t terrified to jump out of a tree or off a break wall. We were ready to take on the world. As a kid, we looked to the sky and saw imaginary stories play out in the clouds. We felt everything deeply, openly, and undaunted. We were happy because the sun was out, and we were sad because we scraped our knee riding our bike too fast around the neighborhood. We were excited about ice cream and terrified of the monster hiding in our closet. We adored our dog, and despised bedtime. We loved unconditionally, and we were enraged that our VCR was ruined because we’d watched it so many times. We were kids, and we were never afraid. Somewhere along the way, something happened. In that moment, everything changed. It was something that was more difficult to conquer than our fear of the monster under our bed. We became too afraid to try, because we were too afraid to fail.

Whatever your moment was, at some point, your innocence was shattered. It was destroyed to a point beyond repair. What you endured, demolished your ability to live fearlessly. We don’t want to move outside of our comfort zone, because that means that there’s a possibility that we might fail.

What happens if we remember the child that still lives in our hearts. The one that courageously conquered all obstacles that stood in our way. The child that is fighting for us to remember that they still exist.

That moment we take a step outside of our comfort zone is when we truly start living life. It is terrifyingly exhilarating and amazingly profound. Sometimes, truly, all it takes is one small step, or leap, and something changes inside of us. Standing on the edge is the most frustrating place to be stuck; wanting to jump, but frozen with fear. When we make that decision to jump we find out more about ourselves than if we stood on the edge of indecision.

A kitchen with a sink and a toaster oven

Fear holds us captive, impulse sets us free. It can be big or small, but once we take that step, everything changes. Find the edge of your comfort zone and push past it. Go for a drive and get lost. Quit the job you hate, and find one you love. Pick a place on a map, and figure out how to get there. Try new food. Climb a mountain and look over all that nature has to offer. Start talking to a stranger. Invent a new game. Go somewhere you’ve never been before. Camp out in the woods by yourself. Go rock climbing and reach the top. Sign up for a class. Go skydiving. Go base jumping. Get a tattoo. Try karaoke. Go on a blind date. Do something you’ve never done before, and you’ll be surprised what you learn about yourself.

Live a life that is full of trials and failures. Yes, sometimes failures are tough, and they knock you down so hard you don’t want to get back up. Wouldn’t you rather have tried, than wonder “what if?”. In truth, failures are what make us stronger. Every moment is an opportunity to either find success or find a lesson. Whichever you are blessed to have, embrace it. Live a life regretting nothing. If you fail, then you learned something, but sometimes, you triumph, and that makes it worth the risk. It’s never too late to be who you want to be, and it’s never too late to try.

As Michael Scott once famously quoted Wayne Gretzky:

A kitchen with a sink and a toaster oven