Better to Guess Wrong Than Never to Guess at All

Hola! Como esta?

My littles are loving their Spanish lessons.  They are learning all kinds of words and how to dialogue.  One of their favorite things is when their Spanish teacher writes stories about the two of them with Miss Sophie in Spanish.  They love reading it aloud and translating it to English.

Their other favorite thing is something she shared a couple of weeks ago.


Remember that game?

You start off with the stand and spaces for a word or phrase sitting beneath it.  If you guess a letter correctly, the letter is placed on the correct space or spaces.  If you don’t, another body “part” is put on the stand.

The way they play is much like we used to.  We used to add facial features, fingers, toes, etc before we’d call someone out and done.  In the interest of giving them every chance we could.  The littles’ teacher plays much the same way.

I played with my Granny and Granddaddy when I was little.  They had the official red and blue plastic “game” version that had letter tiles and everything.  I remember looking up in the dictionary and finding the word “bilabial,” which of course they didn’t guess.  I messed up the pronunciation six ways to Sunday, and my Grandaddy told me I had picked a good word because they couldn’t figure it out.

Bless him.  Who could?  What was I thinking?

My littles had never really played the game in English, let alone Spanish. It has been entertaining to watch them learning how to play.

They are so nervous.  They are really, really afraid of choosing the wrong letter.  Each time they choose a letter that doesn’t have a spot and a body part gets added, they get so anxious because they are one. step. closer.  To it all being over.

No matter how much their teacher assures them they won’t be “hung”–no matter how often she gives them hints, they are so afraid of failing that they freeze up and can’t do anything.


It occurred to me yesterday morning when they were playing the game that this is what we do in life so often, isn’t it?  We become frozen with fear, and that keeps us from making any move at all.

When in fact, the move is what guarantees our success.  The more letters we guess, even if they are wrong, the closer we come to knowing what the answer is.  In fact, the wrong answers tell us very nearly as much as the correct ones do.

Ah yes, I see what you did there, Life.  Giving me an example of why I should move forward, push ahead, make a MOVE–and let go of the fear that keeps me from doing anything.  At.  All.  Learning through my children.

Very cool there, Jerry.  (Sometimes we use nicknames like that. But that’s another story.)

And so tonight I’m thankful for the enthusiasm my littles have for learning something new.  I love seeing the excitement when their sweet teacher pulls out the dry erase board and says, “Hangman!”  They tried something new, and they love it.  And hopefully one day they will realize that it is in the trying that they find true success.

You know, when I used to play with my brother, I’d add on all kinds of things–clothes, buttons, sunglasses–so he could keep choosing and not hang.  I wanted him to give him every chance I could to figure it out on his own.

Here’s to those who gave me the grace of “clothes and buttons and sunglasses” in my life–those who gave me every chance to succeed in life that they could.  Wishing you all someone like that as well.


L_V_   T_  _LL.


the one about success

This morning I had a conversation with a good friend about  measuring the success of a program we are both a part of.  And what that looks like.  All day my head has reverted back to that one word, echoing in my mind, success.  Thinking of what it is, what it looks like, how we define it.  I sat down tonight and looked up the official definition.  


: the fact of getting or achieving wealth, respect, or fame

: the correct or desired result of an attempt

: someone or something that is successful : a person or thing that succeeds

My definition is a little different.


As elusive to define as it is to attain

Some say it looks like three piece suits

and smells like money

or expensive cologne

Some say it is a leather briefcase and

all three of your names on a business card

I once knew and loved someone who said

success was retiring a millionaire

at age 35

That definition killed him

as the struggle to make it happen

and the sense of failure as 35 came and went

were too much to bear

My friend finds success in each day, hour, minute

that she doesn’t lapse

take a drink

She writes poems and soon she will see them in print

She says, Success! with a capital “s” and an exclamation point

just like that

My friend who can’t not take a drink

at least today

and probably tomorrow

thinks success is each day he awakes and isn’t dead

or worse

Any other idea of success would be unattainable

and set him up for failure

So he thinks.

I watch the girl for whom success is good grades and helping others

and I hear her wish for other things,

a significant other, the love of those around her

and my heart aches for her

One goal met only leads to wishing for the next one.

I know.

I’ve been there.

After years of defining success as happiness

or stability–financial, emotional, yes yes and yes

I finally sit down and nod my head

as I write,





Success is not letting the past grab my legs

and pull me back

like quicksand, not only holding me back

but dragging me down

Success is moving forward, even if millimeter

by millimeter

even if the past mocks and laughs and points at the direction I’m taking

Moving.  Onward.

Any day that a soul can look herself in the heart

and not turn away

that day is a success

When one can continue to dream, to wish, to strive

after taking hit after hit–

loss, grief, sadness, hurt, infidelity, betrayal, pain, brokenness–

and can still imagine, create, love, sing

all those colors and sounds and smells and things felt

not forgotten but stored and treasured

Those moments in life whisper, “success,” in a hushed awestruck voice

The volume is not important really

Nor is the exclamation point

Success does not have to be dollar signs or fancy cars

or any of those THINGS

Success is more about what can’t be seen

than what readily meets the eye

When the heart is at peace

success is measured in satisfaction,

in the sense of belonging in the place

one is

in that moment

Success is a reflection

of the heart