Last night I finally saw the much-acclaimed movie, Whiplash, which is based on the real-life story of an ambitious jazz student. This kid’s determination in the face of obstacles at home and in class is astounding. Despite disliking him at times for his single-mindedness and arrogance, I couldn’t help but admire his commitment and burning desire to be the best. The film’s climax is simultaneously painful and breathtakingly awesome, leaving me exhausted yet moved and motivated.
They say things come to you when you need them, which is why I think fate had something to do with my husband choosing that movie to watch.
We’ve all experienced the sting of working hard and wanting something very badly but then failing to reach our goal. Whether it’s the test you studied for and still did poorly, the varsity team you didn’t make, the promotion that went to another, or the dreaded negative book review, these events punch our guts, testing our confidence and resilience.
I’d like to claim that criticism rolls off me, but that would be a lie. Whether it’s professional or personal in nature, it usually takes me a couple of days to regroup, and another one to recommit and learn from my mistakes (hopefully to come back even stronger).
The “mean teacher” in Whiplash believes the worst two words in the English language are “good job.” From his perspective, those words kill potential greatness because, when excellence isn’t demanded, people won’t push beyond what they think possible. Conversely, those who are devoted will meet criticism and challenge by picking themselves up, working harder, stretching further, and eventually surpassing all expectations.
I’m not sure yet whether or not I fully subscribe to the teacher’s extreme philosophy, although I lean in its direction.
One thing that helps me when in the midst of a struggle or crisis of confidence is to remember that everything is temporary and rests on a continuum. Every person’s life is comprised of successes and failures, and part of the point of it all is to enjoy the journey. To celebrate the triumphs. To learn from the disappointments. To grow. And most importantly, to get oneself back up on that horse and keep riding.
At the very least, we parents can use our own setbacks to teach our children how to dig deep, keep the faith, and come back fighting. That’s a win in and of itself.
P.S. What do you think of the teacher’s philosophy (does harsh criticism or moderate praise ultimately yield the best result)?