A Kids Book About: The Podcast

Laymon Talks About Failure

Episode Summary

Dr. Laymon Hicks, author of A Kids Book About Failure, talks about how experiencing failure is a necessary part of learning and growing that prepares us to succeed.

Episode Notes

A Kids Book About Failure (view book)

Full Book Description:

It’s not only likely that kids will experience failure at some time in their life, but it’s a 100% certainty. Grownups, it’s up to you to teach them how to embrace it. This book doesn’t paint a pretty face on failure. It rethinks what it means and how to help kids live their lives not trying to avoid it.

About the Author:

From troubled youth to graduating high school with a 4.0 grade point average and obtaining a doctorate by the age of 29. Dr. Laymon Hicks’ story is moving, his words are empowering, and his message is practical.

*If you want to be on a future episode of A Kids Book About: The Podcast or if you have a question you’d like us to consider, have a grownup email us at listen@akidspodcastabout.com and we’ll send you the details.

Episode Transcription

A Kids Book About: The Podcast

S1 E029, Laymon Talks About Failure


Matthew: What is failure? 

Krystyna: Failure is when you mess something up.

Demetria: It’s like when butterflies get into the chrysalis wrong and then they die, and then they don’t turn into butterflies. 

Junior: Some people just give up and some others don’t give up—like keep on going.

Laymon: Failure to me is not getting back up. We are all going to go through these times in our lives where life knocks us down, where we don't feel our best, but failure to me is, one, not obtaining the goal that you originally set out to attain, but also failure is in the not getting back up to go get that goal again, 


Matthew: Welcome to A Kids Book About: The Podcast! I’m Matthew. I’m a teacher, a librarian, and I’m your host. The voices you heard at the top of our show were from Krystyna, Demetria, Junior, and Laymon. 

Each week we talk about the big things going on in your world with a different author from our A Kids Book About series.

Laymon: Hi. My name is Dr. Laymon Hicks. I am an African-American male father, motivational speaker, son, author.

In fact, I am the author of A Kid's Book About Failure. 

Matthew: Ooooh, failure! I’m gonna be real with you, listeners! Failure and me? We have a funny relationship.

I know that failure is a necessary part of learning and growing and that makes me less afraid to fail. But I also know that it can feel really awful and embarrassing, and that makes me want to avoid it if I can.

Do you think everybody fails? Is that something we all experience in our own ways?

Laymon: Absolutely. Absolutely everyone experiences failure. Whether that is you fail the test or you, like, as I describe in the book, you were trying to learn how to ride a bicycle and you fell down. You were learning to take your first few steps and you fell down.

You didn't reach the goal that you had in your life. So now you feel like a failure. Every single one of us will deal with failure in our lives for the rest of our life. Those who try to stay away from failure are only doing yourself a disservice.

Matthew: I realize I just told you a few seconds ago that I often think about avoiding failure in order to avoid those icky feelings. Laymon has a great take on this.

Laymon: I think a lot of people try to avoid failing simply because they are afraid of what other people may view them as. You are a failure.

Okay. I don't want to fail because I don't want other people to see me as a failure. I don't want to fail because I don't want to deal with the rejection. I don't want to fail because I don't want that to deal with the hurt, the pain that it may cause me. 

So most people avoid failure not to do with all the other things that they think will happen. 

Just because you fell does not mean you are a failure. And I think a lot of people don't understand that every single person who is successful today, who we may look up to, presidents, vice presidents, of corporations, organizations, musical artists, painters, every single person, your own mom and dad, they have all failed.

What if they try to avoid failure for the rest of their life? No one would be where they are today. And so it's so important that you stop looking at failure as a thing that you need to avoid and embrace it and go full throttle. 

Matthew: I learned a phrase a few years ago from a friend of mine that has stuck so tightly in my brain, that I had to share it with Laymon. 

The phrase is “failing forward”. It means using failure to learn and to propel yourself forward.

It didn’t surprise me that Laymon also knows this phrase well.

Laymon: It's so important that you fail forward. What I tell a lot of kids today is that even in your failure, you are nine times out of 10, more successful than the person who did not try, because in that failure, you learn some lessons that you can now use. Later in life. And once again, when you apply for whatever it is that you were trying to do.And so it's important to fail forward. 

Famous motivational speaker Les Brown says this. He says, “when you fail, make sure you land on your back because if you can look up, then you can get up and if you can get up, then you can still fight for your dreams.” 

And in that, what he is saying is that you, you are going to fail, but you have to get back up and if you're able to get back up, then you keep fighting. You keep persisting because that's what life dictates for us. That's what, that's what it calls for us to do. 

So many young people today are afraid. Again, just so afraid of what other people are going to think. And because of that fear, it stops them from persisting. And what I, what I've truly believed in, in, in my wildest thoughts is that failure is only the bridge to get to success. The failure that we have is that bridge, you have to fail in order to become a success. So why, why not get back up and try it?

Matthew: I gotta admit. Hearing “you have to fail in order to become a success, so why not get back up and try it?” ...that’s a phrase that I may never tire of hearing.

Laymon: That's that's part of the process. That is the ingredients in the cake. It's all about perspective. And I always tell people all the time, like, think about WD 40. We know WD 40 simply as water displacement 40. It’s this blue and yellow can we spread whenever we hear things squeaking.

Well, how did WD 40 get its name? The people who created WD 40 failed 39 times. And on the 40th try, they came up with the right concoction which we now know as WD 40. 

Are you willing to fail 39 times in order to create something that will be used over and over again to solve problems in this world.

Are you willing to do it? Most people are not. The question, though, is why not? Why are you not willing to get up to keep going? Because every single time you are learning something new. 

Matthew: We’ll be back in a minute with more from Dr. Laymon Hicks. Right after this quick break.


Matthew: Welcome back to A Kids Book About: The Podcast. On today’s episode we’re talking about failure with A Kids Book About author with Dr. Laymon Hicks.

Can I ask you a question? I know this is something that may be hard for some of you to share? If you have a trusted friend or family member nearby, I’d love for you to take turns sharing with them, too. 

Ready? Here it goes. How does failure or failing make you feel?

Krystyna: Failure makes me feel frustrated and angry. 

Junior: It makes me feel different ways. Like um when I fail, sometimes your really really angry like “ah, it didn’t work, ah” but some people, some people make the best of it and take notes of what didn’t work and what worked, improve, and try again. 

Laymon: Oh man. You know, again, now, today I realized, um, Failing is.. is a part of the process. It is a part of the process. But even in that, it doesn't make me feel good, you know? Cause you put your all in something you've been trying, you know, you've been investing time and effort and money or whatever the case may be a relationship capital, all of this stuff.

It does not make me feel good, but I know on the other side is that I've learned something. And I am because of it. When I was, when I had that fear of failure, I felt pain. I felt rejection. I felt like I wasn't good enough. Uh, like I couldn't anymore that I can sustain what I was trying to build. There was no good feeling with failure, but now that I've learned that, failure is a part of the process. That I will have to fail in order to be someone. That failure is the investment for success. 

I realized, “You know what? Get back up. Keep moving. Keep going.” You know, I always tell people, I tell in my student audiences, I tell my, uh, students that my great grandmother said to me, baby, when you fall down, get back up. And so that was one of the things that she would say to me all the time.

And, and that's what I try to get young people today to realize is that when you fall down, you have to get back up. It hurts. Some people won't look at you the same, but again, your failure is simply an awful opportunity to go out there and continue to make a mark on this world. Someone will benefit from your failure.

Matthew: It may seem unexpected or counterintuitive or maybe even just too impossible to be true, but believe it. Someone will benefit from your failure. I hope that you are the one who benefits from your failure. But you may not be the only one to benefit from your failure.

Laymon: So in the 10th grade I was accepted to the national honor society and at Jefferson high school in Tampa, Florida, And, uh, am I high school? If you are a part of the national honor society, you were literally the bomb.com. Like no one could tell you nothing. You were it. Everyone taught. We were taught to believe that by being a part of the national honor society, you would literally get a 4.0 GPA.

You will walk across the stage at graduation in a white robe where everyone else walked across the stage in a blue robe, you would get into any college that you wanted to get into. And so when I received that letter that said, congratulations, Laymon Hicks, you've been accepted to the National Honors Society. I was like, yes, I'm in. A brother is good. Right? Yeah, it didn't happen. So I had a test in world history. It was seventh period of the day. It was the last class and after lunch in many of them, many of my friends and I, we decided that we were going to cheat on this test. Stupid decision. Um, well, I was sitting in the last row.

My teacher had told us to clear our desk off. He came over to my row. He gave me the test. I took the test and put it on top of this cheat sheet. When I looked down, I noticed that I had every answer circled. I had his name. And so now I'm thinking, well, what do you do? You got to answer key to the test. Most people would be like score. I got the answer key. I'm good. But I raised my hand trying to do the right thing. It was stupid doing the wrong thing. I raised my hand. It was like Mr. B, I have your answer. Can you hear? And so Mr. B came over to my desk and when he took up the test, he saw my cheat sheet and I got obviously in trouble. Uh, he gave me an F on the test.

Um, and, um, yeah, that, that just really scarred me. So like two weeks after that incident, I received a letter that said re regretfully, we have to inform you that you've been dismissed from the National Honor Society. 

They kicked the brother, like, are you kicking me out of the NHS? Like what about my goals?

What about my dreams? What about the 4.0 GPA? The, you know, the walking across the stage in a white robe and everyone else walked across the stage in a blue robe getting into in college that I wanted to get into. All of that was gone because of the dumb mistake that I had made. 

And so I literally, for weeks. Dumb you're stupid. Why would you do that? You're dumb. You're stupid. How could you do that? All this negative self-talk. This, this limiting belief that I had about myself, me calling myself a failure, all of this stuff. That was just in me that I was just pouring. 

So not only did I have to worry about all of my friends, see me getting caught, cheating on a test, but I had, and knowing that I got kicked out of NHS, but I also was putting all this additional pressure on myself by the destructive dialogue that I was having with internally. You're dumb. You're stupid. Why would you do that? How could you do that for six weeks? That happened. 

And then I remembered the words of my great-grandmother that when you fall down, you have to get back up. And so I made a determination that, you know, they said that. NHS, you would get a 4.0 GPA would that became my goal. I wanted a 4.0 GPA, right? And so I worked my butt off for two years. By the time that I graduated, I graduated as the only black male in my graduating class with no more 4.0 GPA. And I went to Florida State University where I have a bachelor's and a master's degree.

And then at the age of 29, I graduated with a doctorate degree. So it became a mission of mine not to be seen as a failure, but to use that situation as the bridge, in order to become the man who I am today. And so that is probably a really memorable time because I learned then that I am in control of my destiny.

That yes, this situation happened to me, but it does not define me. And because it does not define me, I can take that situation, making a part of my story and use that to make the world better. And all of our failures that we go through that happened to us. Don't just go through those failures. One of my mentors would say, you don't go through things, you grow through things.

And I had to understand that what I was going through was stretching me to become a better individual. That failure, that pain, that embarrassment, that rejection was stretching me to prepare me for moments like this. I wouldn't be able to have that story to tell, had I not gone through the failure? 

Matthew: Listeners, I hope that story sticks with you. And I hope that, in some way, you can benefit from Laymon’s failure. From listening to it and learning from it. 

It’s that sharing and that learning that Laymon brought to creating A Kids Book About Failure and those young people all across the country that he visits get to hear these messages as well. 

Laymon: And so It's so important to me, not that when we talk about failure and all of these tough conversations that we're having throughout A Kids Book About. That we sit down and have the conversations that need to be had. So we're better equipping our young people to go out into the world and make a difference that they are not, they, they will be able, which made six, yeah, seven and eight years old, having conversations about money, about anxiety, about racism, systemic racism, about gratitude, about kindness, about, uh, uh, Just all these different topics that we've had in the series of A Kid's Book About is so important.

Matthew: You’ve got many adventures and experiences ahead of you, listeners. I hope that the words of Dr. Laymon Hicks can serve you and can be there for you when you need to hear them. 

Here’s one more takeaway to leave you with before we go.

Laymon: I've just changed the perspective of how I view failure. I know I am going to fail. It happens, but instead of running away from it, now I embraced that. And because I've embraced it, my perspective about being a failure and failing is completely different. Just because you fail does not mean you are a failure. 

To me, a failure is someone who sits on their butt and does not try again. 

That's a failure. That's failing. 


Matthew: Thank you to Dr. Laymon Hicks, author of A Kids Book About Failure, for joining us today. You can learn more about this book and others like it by visiting akidsco.com. And thank you to Krystyna, Demetria, and Junior for adding your voices to the show.

Krystyna: My name is Krystyna. I’m 11 years old, and I live in New York. My favorite thing to do is watch anime, play Roblox, and listen to Melanie Martienez and Billie Eilish. 

Demetria: My name is Demetria, I am 5 years old, and my favorite thing to do is um well more of like my favorite instrument is a violin and I like to play songs on it. And I live in Massachusetts. 

Junior: My name is Junior. I am 9 years old. I live in Maryland. Uh, my favorite thing is 3D printing, playing basketball, and video games. 

Matthew: If you want to be on a future episode of A Kids Book About: The Podcast or if you have a question you’d like us to consider, have a grownup email us at listen@akidspodcastabout.com and we’ll send you the details. 

A Kids Book About: the Podcast is written, edited, and produced by me, Matthew Winner, with help from Chad Michael Snavely and the team at Sound On Studios. Our executive producer is Jelani Memory. And this show was brought to you by A Kids Podcast About. 

Follow the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever podcasts are found and check out other podcasts made for kids just like you by visiting akidsco.com

Join us next week for a conversation about body image with A Kids Book About author Rebecca Alexander.