I recently watched a LinkedIn video discussing failure as a learning opportunity.
The challenge with failure is that it can really sting…
When I publicly stumble, I am reminded of my own limitations. I instantly find myself saying:
“ Damn I really am not who I think I project”
We imagine we look uniquely incompetent or worse, we feel we look deceptive or stupid or like we don’t actually know everything there is to know about everything.
Ok, maybe that last part is a stretch, but my failures certainly remind me not only of my practical shortcomings but also of the shortcomings in my self image.
They make me feel vulnerable in that I just might not be all that I secretly hope I might be.
Or want to be.
And then there is the surprise of failure.
I think surprise is why failure really stings- cuz it’s most often like your brother hiding in the closet waiting til you come into your room to jump out and scare the shit out of you.
It shocks us with the painful reality that at any point in time we are exposed to the startling alternate reality that things may not work out as we planned.
That’s because most days, typically we don’t start out with failure as an intention.
Most days I start out somewhere between “I’m gonna knock this outta the park” and “I will not strike out today.”
Failure reminds us that the self delusion of “I got this” precludes an infinite number of alternative outcomes. Each of which, though not resulting in what I imagined, may take me to an as yet unimaginable different experience.
Under one condition.
That we own our failures.
I have had more than one less than private full on cataclysmic f*ck ups.
In business, in relationships and in health.
But none have been more damaging than the one failure that kept me lashed to the past.
My greatest failure has been my failure to own my mistakes.
I spent decades trying to make a better past by rationalizing my mistakes, or worse, by not even acknowledging them.
Missing the obvious point of – how is it possible for me to leverage the insight I was to learn from any given experience if I failed to say “ ya that’s on me”?
I cannot possibly truly benefit from something that I don’t own.
If I fail to acknowledge that my mistakes are mine, then I can never use them to climb up from.
I was at the helm of a business when I allowed my love for the business model to blind me to the shifts in the macroeconomic forces that were part of globalization.
The business tanked.
More than a 1,000 people were affected.
And my heart broke.
For years that pain proved more than I could assume and I ran from the ownership of that failure.
I saw the failure like a prison tattoo claiming a pledge of eternal love …to a one night stand.
And in so doing I failed again. I brought the past into my present for more than a decade of my life.
I let it define me. I listened to the imagined voices of all of my critics limiting me to only one moment in my life.
And by doing this, I was blinded to any value in the lesson or even in myself at times.
I was just like Carrie Anne Mathison at the beginning of the series Homeland, muttering “I never want to miss something again”.
The irony of that perspective was that no matter how proficient I became at creating growth strategies based on “what if” scenarios for my clients, I failed to experience growth myself.
I remained tethered to my past.
It was only when I fully owned my past, that I became clear on how I might see and use the benefits of the experience to create a present moment that I am increasingly pleased with.
Not eternally pleased with.
Not always pleased with.
Not even consistently pleased with,
But definitely increasingly so.
Thank you Alain Guillot for sharing your thoughts on failure on LinkedIn it reminded me once again of the futility of “makingabetterpast” and that the purest form of failure is when we fail to own all of our lives.
If you would like to see Alain Guillot’s video I will share it on my LinkedIn page, I found it simply courageous and insightful!