Failure is the Greatest Teacher

In business literature, it's so common as to almost be a cliche to say that we "learn more in failure than in success."  Yet how often have we heard our elected officials talk about their failures and failings? It would benefit everyone if public servants were more open and reflective about their failings and what they've learned--benefit them, for not having to live such an uptight, walking-on-eggshells life; benefit the public, for showing that politicians are just people too.

I'm a lead by example guy, so I'll go first.

My greatest failing is that my marriage has ended in this divorce.  Divorce is an atrocious experience for everyone involved, made worse by money-grubbing lawyers and a painfully slow civil court system.  But, as the cliche says, I have learned as much from this whole nearly-half-decade experience as any other episode in my life, starting with becoming a better father to my children...

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I got married right after college, during a one year research job in Japan in 1998.  I was quite young, she was older, I was in love, and that was all it took, I believed.  The marriage was good for quite a while, but problems started to brew in this decade, and we separated in 2013 and filed for (no fault) divorce here in New York in 2015.  The legal process of divorce spends a lot of time on deciding financial matters, but for me the most important thing has always been fathering my four children (2 adopted adult and twin 7 year olds).  To my great relief and to the credit of my Ex, the joint custody arrangement has gone flawlessly, and you'll often see my kids out with me on weekends on the campaign trail.

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Whose fault is a divorce?  My answer is simple: both parties are 50% responsible.  That's because a relationship, any relationship, involves reciprocal commitments of understanding, compassion, behavior, care; and so when it goes awry to such an extent that it's unrecoverable, both sides bear the blame.  I certainly know and understand that I do, and it wears heavy on my heart.

It's unfortunate that it took this much upheaval to learn it, but this was one of the most significant lessons for me from divorce: that being "in love" and being "in a relationship" are two separate (though ideally coexisting) things, and that relationships take more work.

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The other big lesson for me was to be a more present parent to my children, especially the young ones.  I've always loved being a father, from day one nothing about fatherhood fazed me, not the diapers, not anything.  But now that on most weekends I'm effectively a single Dad, I've learned that I need to be more present for the kids, more in the moment.  I have a brain that tends to race off in a thousand directions; but my twins, with their unlimited cheerfulness and overabundant love for one another always bring me back to the now.  For me, that is a blessing that I am very grateful for.

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Nobody knows how this will all end up--I guess that's true for everyone, though, isn't it?  Maybe you'll end up with more money or less money, but more important than all that: did you add some good to the world?  I'd like to think, when I see my children's smiles, that I did.