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Celebrate Unexpected Failures


(This is my one and only bumper crop of potatoes...failure at its best!)​

I was talking to my dearest friend Penny yesterday, we are discussing my spring planting and her perception of my “green thumb”. Yes, we have studied agriculture and have been very fortunate with our farm but… as I reminded her, we have had many mishaps along the way. Trees that never took, veggies that never produced, herbs that died weeks after planting, hay fields that became so overwhelmed by weeds that we had to buy all of our hay. The list is enormous!

Yes, you come to our farm and see bountiful gardens and plentiful flowers. On the surface it looks effortless… but I am telling you, it is not! I would say, it looks beautiful because of hard work and more importantly, we chose not to see those “failures” as setbacks, but as opportunities to learn and challenge our thinking. We then dove back to the research and incorporated our new knowledge of what didn’t work into what might. There was no blame or judgement, just insight and understanding. We see farming as a process not a destination.

“Success” is a choice and a mindset. If we see unexpected events as failures we are doomed. Failure of some sort is inevitable, especially if we want more than the status-quo. It is an indication that you pushed your limits, risked upset on the chance of sweet success. What we do with failure is the key. How do you perceive these events? What is the meaning you assign to these events?

“Instead of trying to learn from and repair their failures, people with a fixed mindset simply try to repair their self esteem…by assigning blame or making excuses…You can still be in the process of learning from your mistakes until you deny making them.” 

 Carol Dweck in Mindset

The trick is to stop, breathe, and ask yourself, “What is the gift and opportunity”? What is the insight? Did I push too hard? “Did I capitalize on my team's strengths?” “Was my vision so set on the outcome that I missed critical insight?” “Did you underestimate/ overestimate your team?”

Failure, if you choose, can drive success, it fuels your efforts and focuses your thought. Use that, feel that, and capitalize on the learnings.

If we can see failure as a learning tool you will not fear it. Shying away from even the chance of failure is what limits your creativity and drive. What if you actively tried to fail (disregard this statement if you are a surgeon or air traffic controller.)? Encouraged your team to think way beyond the boundaries of comfort.

Our thoughts and efforts are limited by what we believe is possible. How would it look if you removed the limits of possibility?

A great episode in The Science of Success tackles this very concept. How depersonalizing setbacks and accepting them without ego or judgement will determine the outcome.

“There is no good or bad without us. There is only perception. There is the event itself, and the story we tell ourselves about what it means. Through our perception of events, we are responsible for the creation as well as the destruction of every one of our obstacles. “

-Ryan Holiday

My Challenge To You…

  • Can you identify one “failure” and shift your thinking around it, can you list 3 gifts or opportunities that came out of that experience?

  • How might progress change if you celebrated and invited failure and leaned into the learnings rather than shied away

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