When You Fall Down: Advice from a 5-year-old

What 5-year-olds teach us about falling down and getting back up

“When I fall down, I’m fine with that!” Waylon sings out over and over as he runs down the forest trail.  

Little kids fall down—A LOT. 

Yes, there’ve been times he’s fallen and laid out crying.  Times I’ve rocked him on the forest floor, knees and hands scraped with dirt and leaves.  But each time, he’s gotten back up. A 5-year-old’s desire to run is greater than his fear of falling.

When I was a child learning to ski, my dad gave my brother and me a point for every fall we took.  “Everytime you fall you get better,” he told us. If we didn’t fall as we learned, it meant we weren’t pushing ourselves, we weren’t stretching to improve.  And everytime we got up, it meant we were better skiers.

The days of taking little falls on the ski slope just to get a point are over—though I’ve used this tactic of safe falls everywhere from rock climbing to growing a farm.

When I returned to the rock wall for the first time after giving birth, a part of me needed to fall, just to know I’d be caught.  So I let go and put my weight on the rope. Once I felt that sensation of the rope tightening, of my body kept steady on a vertical wall, I knew I was safe.  I knew I could grip the rock again and keep climbing up.

On the farm, it comes in the form of new crops and varieties—we don’t always know what will work, but growing a diverse range of crops allows for missteps.  If one type of cucumber doesn’t yield well, another will. If flea beetles chomp all the mizuna, lettuce will take its place.

When You Fall Down

Hiking and running with a 5-year-old
Hiking in White Rock & Hunger Mountain

A fall may be literal: a root in the path, a patch of ice on the slope, a missed hand-hold on the rock wall.  

Or it may be a mistake in the garden, a stumble in the business.  It may be completely out of your control, or it may be something you misread and are responsible for.  

Whatever it is, when you fall down it’s okay.  

Sometimes the fall makes you realize you want what you’re going after more than ever.  Sometimes it makes you question everything. Be there. Stay in that space. Question. Get up.  Go for it, or reroute.

Rerouting is not failing.  You’re meant to walk, to explore, to wind and dip and climb.  In that sense, rerouting is strength—it means you’re listening to what’s true for you and reassessing when needed.    

Every year we have failures in the garden: Crops that get attacked by pests or disease.  A schedule so full we can’t respond to everything. Times we collapse into bed at night and ache for a vacation.   

When we “fall down” in the business, it feels scarier than on the slopes.  But like anything else, it gets easier when we weight the ropes, when we realize there are people and plants there to catch and hold us.

When you’ve fallen down, literally or metaphorically, remember you’re not alone.  Remember the soil beneath your feet that holds you, trees standing tall to steady you, food growing in the garden to feed you.    

Planting a new succession of greens in August
Just like the roots in the soil, we’re all connected.  When you fall down, remember you’re not alone—there’s a whole community of plants and people who can help you get back up.

When You Fall Down, Take these steps to get back up:

Reach out to people or an organization you trust.

This can be a business advisor, a friend or family member, or a group you’re part of.

Through 7 years of running our farm, we’ve depended on the love and advice from family, friends, fellow farmers, and a farm business advisor.  Just like the fields, we’re not meant to grow alone. You’re stronger when you have a diverse team to support you

Take a break.

The value of a fall isn’t in how fast you get back up, it’s in what you learn from falling down.  Take the time you need to ask questions—how did I get here? What can I do to avoid this particular kind of fall in the future?  How do I need to move differently?

Eating some chocolate as you ask these questions helps.

 Reward yourself.

This can be as simple as a point system—we do it all the time on our farm.  Depending on the spectacularity of the fall, one might get 10 points or 100 points.  This works for times you’ve pushed yourself and worked hard in the field, too.

Recognition, even if it’s in imaginary points, is valuable.  It reminds you that you can keep going, and that there’s value in the lessons you’re learning and the strength you’re gaining.  Find a system that works for you, and reward yourself.

Take little falls to prepare yourself for the big ones.  

Weight the rope.  Test your systems.  See where they catch you and where they don’t, and then strengthen the parts that need it.  

Growth isn’t determined by perfect weather and a straight path.  It’s determined by how many times you get back up after you fall, and what lesson you take with you from that fall.

Running through the forest, singing "when I fall down, I'm fine with that."

When Waylon runs through the forest singing, “When I fall down, I’m fine with that!” he falls fewer times.  His refrain, rather than making him fall more, seems to bolden him, trust his feet more, send him speeding faster down the trail.  

Because when we’re okay with falling—when we accept it rather than brace against it—we stay flexible.  And flexibility is key to growth.  

So the next time you fall down, be it a literal fall or a failed crop, give yourself points for learning and getting back up.  Sing out loud: When I Fall Down, I’m Fine With That!

And then keep on growing.

What do you do to get back up from a fall, or to learn from a mistake?  Let me know in the comments below.

Having a hard time getting back up?  That’s okay, too. Read this next: What to do When You’re Thrown For a Loop

2 thoughts on “When You Fall Down: Advice from a 5-year-old”

  1. Hi Kate! I’m so Thankful for your beautiful and wise words, for the love and care behind them. I learn anew or am reminded of truths every read.
    I’ve had a literal fall recently, fracturing a bone in my wrist-arm. Luckily, it’s not complicated & should heal well. Just another lesson along the way.
    Reading your words, regarding the literal & metaphorical falls in life is good medicine.
    I count myself lucky to be among your wide circle of readers, friends, fellow fallers & getter uppers!
    Sending out love to you, Edge & Waylon!

    1. Hi Kerri! Thank you so much for your kind words ❤️ I hope your wrist and arm heal well and fully! Sending you lots of love, and would love to see you sometime!

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