“That thing the nature of which, is totally unknown to you, is usually what you need to find. Finding it is a matter of getting lost… many people never go beyond what they know. Rebecca Solnit
Let’s Get Rid of the Word Failure
It’s not that failure doesn’t exist, of course it does. The problem is that in my culture, failure = something bad. To me failure means, I tried and I learned! What a concept. I have always learned more (and maybe it’s the only place I learned), from my mistakes. Mistakes are often seen as failures. They are not.
The other day, I was on a call and I said something I perceived as harsh to someone else who was asking for help. After the call, I sent an email apologizing. It took me a few minutes to write the note and to consider whether I even owed one, (I have a history of over-apologizing). I decided that even if I didn’t, the risk of wounding someone at a vulnerable moment, made the intention of the apology important enough to send it. The person responded that I had been right and that we were all good.
Had I not understood that my harsh tone was over the top, had I been unwilling to admit my mistake even to myself, had a been unwilling to sincerely apologize, I would have missed out on an opportunity to support myself, this other person and to stretch the, “I’m not defined by my mistakes” muscle.
Searching, Getting Lost, Making the Map
When we are babies, we learn to walk and everyone cheers. They don’t belittle us for falling down, they clap, smile and hug. I work to imagine, when I am trying something new, that other people are cheering for me. The outcome is not as important as the journey. I think the reason why people stop learning new things is the fear of failure, of being judged.
And yet, the coolest people I know make a lot of mistakes. All the time. Why? Because they are taking a lot of chances. Taking risks to learn things that are just beyond what feels comfortable.
The searching and getting lost often result in others considering my efforts; odd, stupid, wrong, confused. I know because I can feel it. Their eyes, the slight tension, the tilt of their head, the edge in their voice, all show me. But this is my life not theirs. If I have time to judge someone else, that’s precious time I’m taking away from own journey, my own discoveries. My map is built on considering my fits and starts of progress. My map is constantly being revised and redrawn. That’s the point. My map is a living, breathing thing. A static map would be so boring and would reflect a life, perhaps, under-lived.
Make More Mistakes
I say make MORE mistakes. Count them as dear companions. Learn from them and then let them go. My most valuable life lessons were learned because I f*cked up. When things come easily, I don’t learn as much. But it’s my mistakes, my errors in judgement, my risks, that makes all the difference in how much I grow personally. An important part of learning is owning what happened. It is the acknowledgment of my part, my shortcoming, my error, where the real strength is gained. Somehow this all seems counter-intuitive. We are taught to hide, pretend, sweep under the rug, any problems we might create. Of course, circumstances must be weighed, but if my first thought is to pretend, “I didn’t do that.” then I have an opportunity to reassess my way forward.
Here’s some encouragement from one of my favorite mentors:
“Yes, being out on a limb is exactly where I want to be. That’s where we’re needed… out on a limb.” Seth Godin