Privilege vs Adversity: The Art of Failing.

This isn’t war. This isn’t you’re dead or undeafted.

You’re allowed to fail here.

“He’s going to be crushed if anything every REALLY happens to him!” screached my friend’s mother. She was dealing with her husband throwing a temper tantrum (ahem, at the age 55) about some small pidly thing he was obviously overwhelmed about. “This happens all the time. He has no clue what REAL problems are because he’s never faced any. So now when something doesn’t go his way, it throws him into a downward spiral.”

I was only… ehhh.. maybe 18 when hearing her say these things and I got to thinking about this more. Obviously, it has stuck with me. I thought back to my upbringing. Most people will proclaim how “hard” they had it. I’m willing to bet that those who say this out loud haven’t even had a real run in with adversity. Especially nowadays. Even worse, many of those people use their “tough upbringing” as a scapegoat (eyeroll), but this article is not about that. It’s about our struggle with providing a cushy upbringing vs exposure to adversity. But nowadays, do people even know what adversity is? How are adversity, privilege and success related? While trying to provide a perfect world for our children, we are stunting their growth.


Adversity – Difficulties and/or misfortune.

Privilege – A special right or advantage.

Failing – To be unsuccessful in achieving one’s goal.

Coddling – To treat in an indulgent or overprotective way.


Coddling: You’ve heard this before: “I just want to give my children more than what I had. I just want them to have it better than I did.” Puke. Sorry… that just always makes me queezy. You turned out alright, right? I’m not saying you have to send your child out alone in the wilderness, force them into 4 hours of daily chores, yell at them, toss them into a sport you know they won’t flourish in… but gosh dangit.. STOP CODDLING THEM! Let them explore. Let them climb the tire swing up into the tree without you freaking out they might somehow die from it. Let them feel failure and teach them how to get over it. Let them feel what it’s like to be “second best” and that desire in trying again for first place. Stop handing out participation awards to everyone. Survival of the fittest allowed humanity to thrive over time and now, in my opinion, we are putting a stop to thriving.

Privilege is all nice and fluffy. A nice bubble forms around you and nothing can touch you, test you, challenge you. Here you are given opportunity after opportunity without the hard work, focus, perserverance and internal checks and balances. Fast forward from a privileged childhood to your adult life. You’re getting constructive crisitism from a boss, maybe heard that a rumor was being spread about you, maybe you missed your bus to work and now you’ll be late. What happens now?  You spaz out. The rest of your day is ruined. You call your mom and whine. Then you top off your evening with a few glasses of wine because… well… “It was just one of those days.”

The real issue here is that people have heard “adversity is the key to success” a million times, but they just don’t relate that to their own lives. YOU CAN FAIL. YOU SHOULD FAIL. WITHOUT FAILURE, YOU LEARN NOTHING. YOU DO NOT GROW. For example, why does Military Boot Camp work so well? The process includes breaking down the mental state and then building it back up again. The trainees are constantly under stress and confronted with setbacks. Soon these things become the “usual” every day and they begin to respond more positively to those setbacks. Getting comfortable with the uncomfortable is key. It’s the only way to ensure you can perform a task and complete a mission without being constrained by an unexpected event.

In order to be stronger, to be resilient, to be adaptable and to be able to get on with life unmoved by it’s itsy bitsy stressors… you must not be sheltered. You must be tested and you must fail. Because after failure… success tastes so good.

 – BnG –

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