(Originally appeared in Elevate U, Al's column/blog for The Black Collegian Magazine)

A Lesson on Failure from Alfred H. Duncan, Sr.

“Happy first Father’s Day!”

A warm, tingling sensation filled my chest as I responded to my father’s words of congratulations: “Thanks, Dad. Happy Father’s Day to you, man.”

After being on the phone for a few minutes longer, my father and I said our good-byes. As I stood there, in the middle of our kitchen, looking down at the bundle of endless potential in my arms, the sensation in my chest started to get more intense.

“I promise with all that is in me to be a good dad and to show you how to be good man.”

Unable to really focus his eyes, Mekhi Eli, my one month old son, looked up at me as if to say: “You had better. I’m counting on you to lead the way.” Then with a stretch and a yawn, it was back to sleep for my little man.

As I contemplated various things to teach my son, I thought about how grateful I am for the myriad of lessons my father taught me. I wouldn’t be half the man I am had it not been for him. But there is one lesson, for which I am extremely appreciative, that stands apart from the others.

This lesson wasn’t intentionally taught. It was accidental. It wasn’t a conversation or shining example of what to do. It was a mistake- a costly mistake. There are things, however, that are seldom learned unless a mistake is made.

In case you can’t tell, I have much respect for my father. He was my childhood hero so, I took it pretty hard when he and my mom were divorced. But that was nothing compared to what was coming.

When I was 15 he told me something that was absolutely devastating. He told me that he was addicted to crack cocaine.

I remember standing there in complete disbelief thinking to myself: “My Dad is smokin’ rocks?! Naw…you’re not my father, you’re an imposter! Heroes don’t loose to the bad guys.”

Pain and confusion filled the air. I wanted to cry, but I couldn’t. Too much anger. Too much resentment.

For a few years he battled his addiction and I, along with my two little brothers and three little sisters, battled our emotions. Eventually, we all won.

The day my dad came up to me and said, “Son, I did it, I beat it, I’m clean!” I didn’t exactly greet him with open arms. Too much anger. Too much resentment.

But after awhile, admiration replaced anger, respect replaced resentment, and a priceless lesson replaced the pain. I have spoken and written about this lesson on numerous occasions. 

Now matter what happens or what mistakes you make. Be it a bad grade, a bad interview, a bad relationship, bad credit, or just plain old bad decisions.  If my father came back from that then you know you can come back from whatever.

So, here’s one of your first lessons, Mekhi Eli. It’s from your granddad.

Failure is only permanent if you quit.

Copyright 2007 Al Duncan Enterprises. All rights reserved.

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Al Duncan—The Millennial Mentor™—is a World-Class Motivational Speaker, an author, and a renowned Youth Speaker. Visit him online at www.alduncan.net

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