Several years ago my sister-in-law and I were chatting in her kitchen when my nephew Grant came bounding in from the next room, where he’d been shooting hoops with his tiny nerf basketball set. He was very young at the time—just learning to talk, in fact—and was clearly ready to burst with some fantastic news.
“Mama! Mama! MAKE!” he said, beaming.
He had made a basket.*
“Awesome, buddy!” Andrea said. The words were barely out of her mouth when he ran off to shoot again. A few seconds later, he was back.
“Mama! Mama! MAKE!”
This scenario repeated itself four or five times (I hate to brag, but my nephew is a wonderful athlete, a genius, and is, in general, perfect in every way). Then the darnedest thing happened.
Grant came running in again with enthusiasm—he might have even happily punched the air above him with his perfect little fist—and announced, “Mama! Mama! MISS!” Off he went again, delighted.
I looked at Andrea, confused, and she explained: he simply hadn’t learned yet that making a shot was better than missing a shot.
My nephew was thrilled just to be playing. He was thrilled to be running around, thrilled to have recently learned how to say the words “make” and “miss,” thrilled to have a momma to whom he could deliver all of his announcements. He wasn’t playing the game to win; he thought playing was winning. A “miss” was just another exciting thing that happened in a game. It carried no negativity with it, no furrowed brow, no feelings of failure.
Hey guys: remember that magical time in your life before you learned how to judge the crap out of yourself?
I carry this story in my heart as a gentle reminder that usually my misses are just misses, and nothing more. They are simply things that occur in the game of life. My egoic self likes to surround my misses with a lot of unnecessary drama. She suggests (rather strongly) that even minor screw-ups are symptoms of my underlying, serious, most likely fatal condition: Not Being Good Enough Disease.
I can convince myself, after one mediocre photo shoot, that my career as a photographer has been pure fraud from the beginning, that I haven’t even begun to grasp the basic principles of lighting, that I’ll never get the magazine assignments I dream of (for good reason) and that my Instagram feed sucks because it lacks a carefully curated neutral color palate (like that cool graphic designer from Stockholm has).
That night, I dream I’m watching the Starbucks Siren perform in a musical. Her eyes are glowing red and she’s laughing like Cruella Deville while singing a rowdy, triumphant little number called “Once a Barista, Always a Barista.”
It’s an issue.
So these days, I’m unabashedly trying to think more like a two-year-old. I’m living for the fun of it. I’m taking the misses—and the makes, come to think of it—way less seriously. I try not to judge them as good or bad. I try not to judge myself at all. I think about Grant running back and forth to his mom to share the play-by-play, and it reminds me that my most joyful moments don’t come from winning or succeeding but from connecting.
Did I mention my nephew is, like, really, really smart?
*You thought this was gonna turn into some gross story about potty training and poop, didn’t you? Sorry about that. Maybe next time.