“Failure is a process … you have to fail over and over and over again to get anything that’s worthwhile.” Jules Feiffer cartoonist
Feel like a failure? You’re actually winning. Watch this 40 second video about the power of failure. According to Mr. Feiffer, you need to continuously try new things and fail in order to create anything worthwhile. Think about raising children. If you think you didn’t fail over and over again… I suspect you are kidding yourself.
Think about nature. Evolution is a series of failures in order to find the best way forward: the flower that is drought resistant or the leaf that absorbs water more effectively.
I am teaching a new online course. Learning the software is driving me crazy. Just when I think I have learned something, it appears that I forget it. And this is happening live, in front of my students. Humbling to say the least.
Think of the last time you failed. Did you curl up in a ball? Did you try to deny it? Were you ashamed? This last is the worst of it. Failure is a sign that you are trying. If you can’t think of the last time you failed, then you are either not paying attention or you aren’t trying anything new. The old saying, nothing ventured, nothing gained, warns us to keep trying new things. To live fully we need to fall on faces from time to time.
Photo credit: Fig leaf John Leach
If you are unfamiliar with Jules Feiffer’s delightful cartoons (as well as the rest of his body of work), check him out.
A dog can never tell you what she knows from the smells of the world, but you know, watching her, that you know almost nothing. Mary Oliver
This is my dog Gildie. She is the first dog I have ever had.
What is there to learn from your first dog? Wow. Everything. She is so excited to wake up every day and play. I need this.
She is motivated by food and people and toys. She is completely engaged in life except when she’s asleep and then she’s completely engaged in that.
I got a dog so I would have to go for a walk everyday. Rain or snow, whatever the weather, I needed a reason to get up and walk. Since she has the energy of 2 toddlers, I am compelled to play, walk, laugh and be completely engaged with her.
The quote above about how a dog perceives the world — through her nose– was brought home to me on one of those walks. She trusts her nose more than her eyes and it got me thinking. Which of my senses do I trust the most?
I am certain my eyes deceive me. Happily, I learned to trust my gut. Take all the information and sift it through the sensor that is my years of experience.What do you rely on? What you see, what you hear, what you believe? Do you jump to conclusions about people?
Understand how you learn and make decisions and you’ll be more effective in everything you do. How free are you with your opinions? Do you offer to give everyone the benefit of your wisdom? Or do you use your experience to let others find their own path? Use all the information given to you to help you be a better friend, co-worker, partner and parent. We’ll all benefit.
I have two children; they are wonderful people. There are times when I wonder what I gave them. Oh, I think I was a good mother. I’m not questioning whether I gave them a good education or a nice home, but I wonder - what did I pass on to them that they only could have received from me?
I love this quote from Thomas Edison. Whether you call it passion or enthusiasm – it is the “estate of incalculable value.” How does a parent pass this along?
There is really only one way. That is by example. What you do. Your behavior. How you spend your time. How you treat people. How you learn new things. How you accept the good and bad. Your precious time – how do you spend it? How do you act when you think no one is looking.
Are you excited to be alive? Are you grateful? Do you complain everyday about the weather, your boss, why you don’t have this and that?
Or do you focus on the beauty? the joy? the positive? the kind? Do you greet each day with an energy that says, “life is an adventure.”
Bring passion and energy to your children today and everyday. They might just thank you.
Image credit: Thomas Edison and GE That’s Genius Pinterest Board
“You have to finish things … you learn by finishing things.” Neil Gaiman
When I think of all the projects I have started and never finished… it’s a little embarrassing. There was a point in my life when I tried a lot of different creative endeavors; basket weaving (really, really hard), Ukrainian eye dying (maddening), calligraphy (oh brother), etc. I do crochet and want to learn to quilt, so I have big bags of yarn and fabric. Someday, I am going to create a lot of great stuff. (wink, wink). I like to start things, sometimes I fall apart when it comes to finishing. Am I alone in that or are you the same?
When I read the above quote… it caused me to stop and think. Do we really learn from starting things or finishing things or both? Think about the last project you started at home. Did you finish it? Think of a really big project you started at your current or past job. I assume the project was broken down into smaller pieces. Did you celebrate a little when each step was completed?
There may be limited benefit to debating the starting/finishing question, but my guess is that a few minutes contemplating both might lead to some personal insights. What causes me to procrastinate? What causes me to abandon something before it’s done? I’m not lazy; I accomplish a lot everyday.
Think about specific projects. Share your thoughts with someone and then decide to take one action.
Photo credit: wjarrettc photo
“The chief trick to making good mistakes is not to hide them – especially not from yourself. Instead of turning away in denial, … you should become a connoisseur of your own mistakes, turning them over in your mind as if they were works of art, which, in a way they are.” Daniel Dennet
Many of us want to shrink when we make a mistake. We deny that we’ve made one or we hesitate to own our part. While it may seem easier to avoid ‘consequences’ – the truth is we (almost) always feel the consequences one way or the other. For instance, if we avoid taking risks for fear of looking foolish – we deprive ourselves of opportunities to grow and learn. Not good.
If we take a big risk… e.g. wholeheartedly sponsor a big project at work… and it goes well; we might get that promotion. If it fails, we will suffer from the ‘slings and arrows’ of people’s looks and possible gossip. But who learned? You did. While they were sitting back and judging you, you were out there talking, promoting, learning, growing and gaining visibility. Instead of hiding from your mistakes; what if you embraced them? what if you just say, “Wow, I made a mistake. I learned a lot and I won’t make that mistake again.” Imagine how confident you would seem and feel.
Billy Joel has a great line in his song… You’re Only Human:
“You’re not the only one who’s made mistakes
But they’re the only thing that you can truly call your own”
If mistakes are the only thing I can truly call my own, then I should make MORE not less. We encourage our small children to make mistakes and assure them that it’s ok when they do. Then they get to be teens; we start to bear down on them — don’t make mistakes!. As adults, we are mortified when it happens to us. Why? Because we are afraid to look anything less than perfect. We set a better example when we own our risks/mistakes. We then have the satisfaction of knowing that we created something – all my own. Smile, it’s just a mistake.
Photo credit: Hand over mouth Mel B.
My aha career moments… here are two.
1) I had been working in corporate America (a Fortune 25 company) when I got pregnant with my first child. I realized that if I was going to create the ‘life’ I wanted, I was going to have to figure out how to work part time. There were no ‘part-time’ ‘professional (non-exempt) women working as managers at the company at that time. I made my pitch to my boss… I’ll continue to manage the group, get my work done and you can pay me less (I’ll work 30 hours a week). In return, I’ll manage my own schedule. He didn’t want to say yes but I made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. (Well he could have but he had a daughter my age..etc.) My aha moment was not getting the green light to test this new idea, which I did… the aha moment was the incredible push-back I got from my colleagues; particularly women.
Take-away: Be clear about your priorities and don’t let anyone stand in your way. I decided that the push-back came from inside these people. They were jealous that I was ‘brave’ enough to do something so radical (haha, radical).
2) Jumping off a cliff – When I left that same large corporation during a down-sizing (I was made an offer.. go back to full time or leave the company) — I decided to leave and start a company. I was the single mother of 2 school-aged children. People thought I was crazy. What they didn’t know was that I was carefully plotting my career to be an entrepreneur. Every assignment I took inside the corporation was designed to teach me a skill I would be able to use in my future entrepreneurial adventure. So I jumped off the cliff and started a company. It worked for about 2 years and then 9/11 happened and all our customer’s funding dried up.
Take-away: If you wait until everything is perfect, until you know what you’re going to do, until you’re certain… you’ll never jump. Some people are born to jump, some people aren’t. Don’t waste your time wishing you were one or the other. Know yourself and take the risks that make your life meaningful.
Live for today… the sun is shining, you can walk, talk, eat, smell, smile, see — but pay attention to your tomorrow. Don’t listen to others when they tell you — you can’t and leap when the leaping feels right. I sleep well at night and look in the mirror with a quiet confidence. I can always improve myself. But I can happily say; I didn’t let fear get interfere with doing it my way.
Image credit – GE Pinterest Board -That’s Genius – Thomas Edison
“Build a good name. Keep your name clean. Don’t make compromises, don’t worry about making a bunch of money or being successful – be concerned with doing good work and make the right choices and protect your work. And if you build a good name, eventually, that name will be its own currency.”
Who wrote this? Take a guess. (play Jeopardy theme song here).
If you guessed someone famous.. you were right, almost. Patti Smith is a musician, poet, visual artist. She co-wrote “Because the Night” with Bruce Springsteen. (You’ve probably heard of him… do you think the boss subscribes to Patti’s philosophy? – I do.)
So what is Patti encouraging us to do?
- Build and protect your brand (name). Think of this in Patti’s context.. a woman in rock in 1975. Imagine how immensely talented and strong she is and what decisions both personal and artistic she needed to make to stand by this.
- Do good work. Yeah, that means working hard, taking risks, being bold when you may not want to.
- Protect your work. For the non-artist, I take this to mean be conscious of your work product and own it with pride.
- Make the right choices. “Right” choices tend to be harder and require thought and effort. That’s why so many of us make ‘wrong’ ones.
- Your name will be its own currency. In the new world of social… you can control/influence the value of your name tremendously. But you need to pay attention. It does not happen by accident.
For all of you saying, my name will never be ‘currency’ – I feel sorry for you. The ship has sailed and you missed it.
By the way, if you judge this book by it’s cover… you’re missing something great.
“When you have to sell ugly, sell the result.” **
You know the expression, “a face only a mother could love”? This little piggy is beautiful in her mother’s eyes. The good news is, we’re all beautiful to someone. “Selling ugly” means selling something that, on the surface… doesn’t seem great.
Selling sexy is easy; selling results is hard. If you spend more time understanding what the ‘customer’ (potential employer, someone who’s buying what you’re selling, etc.) needs… it will be more reasonable to assess your strengths versus that end.
In life, we all have those moments of doubt… when you and I need to convince someone (including ourselves!) that we’re wayyyyy more attractive than we might appear at first glance. In this case, we need to sell on the results we can deliver – not on our outward appearance. Maybe our experience isn’t a perfect fit for the job that’s open. Maybe we think we have too much or not enough education. Maybe we think we’re not pretty, thin or rich enough… whatever.
The truth is you are a perfect fit for someone, someplace. The question is, do you understand what you can DELIVER? Can you be more fun, more creative, more interesting? Can you design it, deliver it? Can you hit sales targets, hire better, add integrity? What goal do you have and does that goal match the person/organization you are trying to sell?
Even if we’re not quite as difficult a sell as the hairy pig… focusing on results will nearly always get us closer to the prize.
** thanks to Chris Brogan
Photo credit: Hairy Pig JLplusAL
“Nothing in the world is softer or weaker than water and yet for attacking things that are firm and hard, nothing is so effectual.” Tao Tê Ching
Are you soft or hard? Ask people who know you. Ideally, we find a way to be both. This is the ideal of yin and yang; sweet and sour.
As a young, ambitious employee… I would charge around… spouting ideas, giving my opinion in a very “hard” way. I didn’t mean to be annoying or a smart aleck.. I just thought the world needed changing and I was just the person to do it. Sandpaper does eventually wear down the surface… but it’s not the easy way.
Think about the power of water. Think about the Grand Canyon.. (have you ever been there… it’s amazing). Water created this magnificent sculpture. The steady, slow pressure of water creates miracles.
Have a goal? Are you bullying your way there or are you slowly, deliberately applying the appropriate pressure. Guess which one helps you win the war, not just the battle.
Photo credit: Magnified by Nature Scott Robinson
This blog is a rant.
I’m probably getting old and cranky (ok, not probably) but I am tired of people who want ‘help’ — get it through the generosity of selfless people and then boom – they take and take and largely never give back. All the ‘takers’ just stopped reading! I didn’t really expect to change any ‘takers’ but I am hoping to get to the ‘matchers.’ (read on!)
In his research-based book, Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success Adam Grant (Wharton School)has identified three types of people — givers, takers, and matchers. Matchers return favors tit-for-tat (they care above all about fairness), Takers try to tilt most things in their own favor (focus on themselves), Givers are generous (focus on others).
Most people are givers in their personal relationships. Interestingly, at work, people change. Grant notes, “An extraordinary number of people who are in a giver mindset at home are a matcher or taker at work.” Only 8% describe themselves as givers at work because most people think “givers are chumps who will fall behind in the game of work”.
Grant’s research shows that givers are among the most successful people in business and may also be the happiest. “There is powerful evidence,” “that givers experience more meaning in their work than takers or matchers.”
Back to my rant. I have probably met one on one with 500 people in the past 5 years. Many people thank me and that’s all I ask. But there’s a whole segment of people (both men and women) who act like they’ve never met me when I see them later. They are so focused on themselves… they don’t even remember meeting me! Often these are the same people who.. didn’t offer to buy the coffee (when they asked to meet me), never asked me one question about myself, never bothered to write an email saying thanks or following up in any way. In the tug of war of life — are you helping to pull for the greater good or shoving people out of your way?
Ok. I’m done.
Photo credit: Navy & Marines in tug of war NYCMarines (I wouldn’t bet against any of these fine human beings)