Click on the mini-image below to listen on the page. Or, tune in through your favorite podcast service available through the “Subscribe” button.
From the first baby steps to the most satisfying achievement, failure crops up as a necessary obstacle to work through in personal development.
But, all failure is not created equal.
How can you know the difference?
Some failure leads toward the desired outcome. Some does not.
I’ve had a tremendous number of failures in my life. I share a few in this episode as I discuss typical types of failure.
Some failures are failures to try.
Some failures are failing forward toward the goal.
Deciding to be aware of which is which in the process is an important step between endless rumination or the formation of wisdom.
You decide. And, then take the next step.
#moveyourdesk #podcast #failure #failfoward #obstacles #wisdom #workperformance #workstories
Episode 159 Transcript
This is Rebecca Clark episode 159 failing at failing. Mm hmm. This podcast is for anyone that knows they haven’t yet found and offered up their best work but are compelled to seek it out and do it. Are you ready to move your desk? Mm hmm. I can accept failure. Everyone fails at something but I cannot accept not trying Michael Jordan’s. I also want to quote Albert Einstein, a person who never made a mistake, never tried anything new boy. Isn’t that the truth? I have felt like a failure often in these past few years and I’ve been reflecting a lot on why that is. And what came up for me when I started thinking about this is the idea that I was just so busy in the past with other people’s requirements that even if there were failures, there were just so many successes that kind of covered up the failures for me, right. If you have dozens of projects to manage or a big program to manage and you’re part of some huge system implementation, you’ve got a lot of moving parts and so there are a lot of things that go right and there are a lot of things that go wrong. But at the end of the day, if the system is implemented by the time it’s needed within the budget and the schedule or whatever. And if the program seems to be running smoothly despite a few setbacks and if projects do get completed, even if they are behind schedule, there’s still something to claim. Right. And it’s easy to go, oh, you can put on a resume, I completed these 50 projects where I helped with these large implementations or I made this event go well and not include on that same list, all of the failures that were on that journey. But if you strip away in an organization, if you strip away all of the business and the activities and you are left alone, in that aloneness, you are deciding what the next steps are and you’re starting to experiment with things and put things out there. There seems to be an increased awareness of your failure rate. I have certainly found this to be true as I stepped out of my job by my choice and I have felt the pain of failure more deeply then I remember feeling it for many years and it’s very fascinating to me to step back and go, wow, I don’t know if my failure rate is higher or not than it was in the past, but I certainly have this overarching feeling that my success isn’t greater than my failure rate at this point, if that makes sense and that bothers me because I feel like, well something’s off, I haven’t quite figured it out, something must be wrong and somewhere in that process, saying, okay, what am I going to do about it? I’ve learned a lot, I’m still learning and when is this going to actually turn into the best possible solution for me and I’m sharing this right now because I think sometimes we see things on social media or we see job titles, we see some of the things people are involved in and think, oh, they’ve arrived at what they want to do and they’re making all the money they want to make and that’s awesome. I wish I was them. But the reality is most of the time, that’s not true. It may appear like it to you on the outside looking in, but the person doesn’t feel that way. And I know I fall into this set of feelings quite frequently. I don’t want to say fall into the trap, even though it can be a trap, right? And you can ruminate and stay there for a while. But I’ve seen this with everyone I’ve coached and lots of people I’ve worked with, how we think we want something, we go through all the effort to get there and when we get there, we still feel lacking, We’re still feel like we’re not enough or why didn’t I ask for more money or why didn’t I really go after the position I wanted. And I see this all the time. And so today I wanted to talk a little bit about this and share with you some of my failures and put it in the context of failing forward and failing to try because these are two very different types of failures and we know this because the failure to try does not produce the same results as failing forward and why doesn’t it do that? Well, there’s different actions associated with them or lack of action in the case of failure to try and because there’s different actions, we know that there are different emotions involved and different ways of thinking involved, right? Because this follows that mind framework model that I often use to help people see what the results are of their thinking and I use the model all the time right there, you never arrive right right at that moment you think you arrive and you’ve had success, you’re immediately met with a new challenge. Alright, seriously, can we just like coast for a little while here and enjoy the success? And the answer is no, you have to find ways to experience the feeling of success before you have it or to experience it on different points on the journey because most often you will not stay in that place of feeling like success for long Now notice I use the word feeling versus actual results because often it’s a feeling of whether we’re successful or not. So, I wanted to share a few stories because I want to and I think it will spur you to think about your own life, your own work and own decision making and see where you are in different areas on failing forward or failing to try. But first I want to start with a story that shows that sometimes these failures are just a lack of awareness and so that’s why we always want to work on our mindset and how we think because with that awareness of our mindset it opens our eyes to more possibilities and allows us to make decisions about failing forward. And in those moments where we’re failing to try, we can move into the direction of failing forward. So when my son was one years old we started him in preschool at that point it’s kind of a mixture of babysitting and a tiny bit of school, right if any of you have gone through that, you know this and he started preschool and I was so hesitant to have him go but I had to go to work and it was very difficult for me to drop him off in the morning after a few mornings of dropping him off and trying to make it so that he was there as few hours as possible. I said to my husband, I can’t do it, I cannot drop him off. I’m going to work later as a result and I’m emotional. Okay. I would get teary eyed when I dropped him off because even though it’s a great place and it looked to be a safe environment with wonderful people and I had a video camera, I could access any time of day to see what was going on with him. I just found it so difficult to leave him there. So he started taking him in the morning and I would pick him up after work and I tried to tell my husband okay, you need to take him around eight o’clock so he’s not there too early. And I said I’ll leave work a little early and do a couple of hours at home so that he’s only there about 6. 5 hours and this won’t be too stressful for him and we’ll make sure that we get to be the parents most of the time. And I felt strongly about that especially As he was, especially 1-2 and a half years old. Yet at the same time I was getting tired because I felt like I was trying to rush things at work in order to get into traffic at the right time so I could get there and pick them up and be home before all the real beltway backups occurred. And so years go by and he’s about four years old and there’s this moment in time, I don’t remember how long it was but it was for a couple of days in a certain week where my husband had to be at work very early or maybe he was even out of town and I had have meetings that were early in the morning and later in the afternoon. Right. So it was physically impossible for either of us to maintain the schedule that we had been maintaining. And so I thought okay well I guess he’s going to have to be the early kid this week, right? Like you know this as if this is some kind of sinful practice of being the early kid at the daycare, right? But in my mind this was the least desirable option right to have my child their first in the morning early, you know, this could just be terrible. So we go, it’s probably 6:30 AM and I take him the first day and it was kind of fun because this little girl that really liked him was there, having her breakfast because her mother was one of the directors of the preschool. So I thought, oh this is great, he’s there with the director and with this child. So I take him the next day and same thing. It seemed to work well and I had to pick him up late and it was just fine. And I think on the 3rd day when I dropped him off, I was like, wow, I thought it would be more difficult doing this way. And I mentioned it to whatever teacher was in the room at the moment, she said, oh, he said, well, I know your son is someone that is very bothered by noise if he just walks into it. And so he seems to have done better these last few days being here early. He has time to be just one or two people and he cares a lot about conversations. So he had time to talk and share and work on a puzzle or do some toys with those that were there and then as the other kids slowly arrived he got to be part of greeting them and he was already part of the noise so it kind of gradually got louder and he enjoyed being there a little late sometimes because then at the opposite happened right, the noise started going down as different people got picked up because I was one of the mothers that often picked him up earliest and I had this lightbulb moment at that time, I thought you’ve got to be kidding me. I have been bending over backwards to make sure my husband takes him a little later and I take him a little earlier so he’s not there too long because I thought it was in his best interest in our best interest that he wasn’t spending that many hours there. But the opposite was actually true. He was having more individual conversations when he was there longer, he was able to interact in ways he needed to and despite his challenges with napping, he enjoyed his day and when he got home he was more fulfilled and less frustrated and he got tired kind of right at the time you would want him to be tired to go to sleep for the evening. And so, and that’s partially because by the time he was three he hated naps, he’s not, he’s probably had one or two naps since the age of three. So it was agonizing for it to be a nap time to lay on that cot and sometimes have a book and sometimes not and just to lay there thinking and wondering when would nap time be over. I started with that story however long to show that I was completely unaware that I was making a decision. That wasn’t the best decision or the most helpful decision for my child. And it blew me away to find that out. And so that was a moment where this was not a lack of failing forward or failure to try category. This was just a general mindset where I just hadn’t chosen to be aware of other possibilities because I thought there were none and I wasn’t even attempting to find another possibility. And so awareness is key. So let’s talk about failure to try, failure to try is something that we do more often than we think. And I’m including you all in this because I have heard you and I recognize the voice because it’s like my own and one of the reasons we think we try more than we do is because our brains are very active, ruminating, mind churning, thinking of options and questioning ourselves and in that process we are having this worry or fear, emotion of taking the next step. Perhaps it’s related to thoughts like what if I fail, I’m not good enough, I surely must take another course until I can even attempt this. I’m not smart enough. I don’t have enough years of experience. I’m not following the exact steps you should follow, so maybe it’s not going to work out or how dare I be, the one that puts my step forward and has my voice heard all of these different thoughts that can go on and when we have these thoughts were very busy and we’re getting very tired because our mind is working very hard, but not a lot is getting done towards the result that you want. Have you had that where you recognize this often in daylight? I don’t recognize this. I recognize this more at night when I’m trying to go to sleep and I start ruminating on mind churning on something and then I can’t get to sleep. I’m like, you’ve gotta be kidding, I’m still up. It’s an hour later and I’m doing this and then it’s really terrible if you’re really worried about something or if you’ve worked really hard on something and then your dreams are all about what you’re working on. And you wake up absolutely exhausted because your mind has been so hard at work isn’t that fascinating and so on. These failure to tries. We actually are doing a lot of work. It’s a lot of mind work and it zaps a ton of energy from us. But all it is is stuff in the mind and it is actually preventing us from taking meaningful action toward our goal or for the outcome of results that we desire. We can engage in it so quickly and it’s like our minds are wired for it and we have to untrained our mind from going there because we’re so good at going there. I have a lot of failure to tries in my life and when I say that it’s not because I haven’t made an initial attempt, it’s because I have not followed it all the way through right. And I’m noticing this again now in my life that I’m really good at getting started and I’m really good at finishing certain things but other things I give up before I have had some success. And so it’s almost like there’s a bike lock Or any kind of lock actually where the combination is five numbers long. It’s almost like I go through, I find the first number, I find the second, I find the third and then like it’s not working, it’s not working. I better quit. This must be the wrong code, It’s not working well it is working. You’ve got three numbers correct, You just got two more to figure out right and then it will completely unlock but we give up before that point often I am an experimenter. So in that way I have many failing forwards that I could turn to but right now as we talk failure to try, I have taken so many steps in my life to create and produce and write things and yet I feel like many of them have not reached the success potential that they could have reached and that’s on me. You could say all Rebecca maybe they were just experiments and it was just important for you to do it and for it not actually be to be seen because it wasn’t perfect or even good enough or something. But the reality is there’s a lot of junk out there that’s worse than what I’ve created and those things have been successful. Right? So, so some of the things that I have failed at that I find interesting, but I hope you think of your stuff as I share this is that I was very inspired to start blogging when blogging first came out. So I started a blog. It was a personal blog and I just talked about whatever I wanted to talk about. But in the process I had some other ideas. So I created a blog about uh clothing for tall girls, right? Tall women like, hey, here’s good places to order tall clothing And at the time, uh there was an actual store called Tall Girl. I think it’s called long tall Sally now, but tall girl had awesome stuff if you’re over six ft and of course Eddie Bauer had tall sizes, Chadwick’s of boston had tall sizes and I don’t think that some of my other preferred catalogs like J crew had them, but they were delving into it. So I thought I’m going to start this blog where I’m gonna share with tall women places to get tall clothes. And a couple of tall women followed it and shared a couple of thoughts with me and then I just kind of let it go, well, I’m not the uh person people turn to for high fashion for tall women, right? I have a very simple, classic wardrobe. I stick to it and sometimes it’s not classy at all. Right, It’s just frumpy. But I started that I had the idea, I had an idea for another blog to blogger Pickles. And it was for all the quotes I found interesting on the internet or in my life. And I kind of started uploading them all to this blog. I think it’s still out there, but I haven’t returned to it and I have never marketed it or shared it with more than five people. I had a secret blog I kept for many of my years of work called musings of A Future Leader, working with the maddening crowd. And I just decided this week that maybe I’ll turn that blog into a book like what the heck, why not? At least I can reference it. Right. It’s so easy to create books nowadays. And that leads me to some other failures. Did you know, I’ve written four books. These are not rocket science books or anything. But I wrote a book called a sequence of nudges that came from a sequence of 30 emails I had created for an email campaign a few years ago and it was related to nudging because I like to use the word nudging and I love the concept of it. But I wrote a little book. I went through the publishing process and everything and I wasn’t quite right. I went out to fiber and I paid someone to make the cover and then I didn’t quite like it. And I used the default in the amazon account I had and I’ve written a book called the Nudge Factor and I’ve written a book called Find The Perfect Coach for You and I wrote another book called Find Your ideal accountability partner. See these are not rocket science concepts, but I had some stories, I had some tips and tricks that worked and so I put them in a book and I went through that process. I wanted to know what the process was to publish a book And I have probably sold a couple $100 worth of books. Why? Well I haven’t marketed them, I’m kind of embarrassed to share them with people. I don’t think they’re perfect. I have thoughts and feelings about them. In fact if I were to go back and read them now because I wrote them, I don’t know five or 67 years ago, I would probably edit some more. But the fact is as I wrote some books and I went through the publishing process and I paid some people to help me at those points, I needed help. I also started to write a little book series about tiny person. I never quite got anywhere with it. And through the process I learned lessons right? And that’s where in these lessons are mixtures of failures to try and failing forward because the failing forward part of these experiences, I actually took the steps. I actually did the work. I actually learned lessons in the process that I have applied to other parts of my life but I also met wrapped up in that had failure to try. I didn’t try to make them a success even though I spent a lot of time on them. I was in a very creative period. I probably Created them all within a period of less than two years I have created online courses And I’ve had over 11,000 students in those online courses only earned a few $1000 from those courses. They’re not perfect. They’re all out on you to me dot com if you wanted to go take any of them, some are free. Some are not, but I can give you a coupon if you want one. But the failing forward part of that is I tried and the process of trying, I learned how to be on video. I learned what I was doing wrong with my own power points, even though I could clearly pointed out if you made the same exact power point. But somehow when I did it, I was missing my point. But I still put it out there as I tell you this, I’m discovering something, right? I’m willing to go out there and create, but I have some kind of mental block with marketing, I have some kind of mental block still with sales not selling your stuff, selling my stuff interesting, isn’t it? So I think we’re all a mixture of this where we’re failing forward on some things and we’re failing to try on other things. Now I keep talking about failing forward, but I neglected to say what that is failing forward is getting going. It’s taking the next step, it’s experimenting, it’s learning the lessons from the experiment going. What do I take with what I just learned the act of experimenting the act of taking the next step for some reason, creates new ideas, right? I was just explaining this to some people the other day about project management. Sometimes the project goes off schedule. Sometimes you suddenly don’t have enough budget, sometimes materials you need are not available right? When you need it on the project and this can be at first a terrible thing, you can say this is awful, it’s a failure etcetera, etcetera etcetera. But in those moments if we get our mind going and say, okay, this is terrible. Now, what should we do about it? What can we do, what can we control here? There can be brilliance that comes out of those experiences. And so that’s why it’s important to keep failing forward because the act of trying helps us get new ideas, helps us learn the lessons we need to take the next step, helps us disregard the project altogether if we realize it’s the wrong direction. But for some reason and I don’t make up the rules, I just share them that inspiration those lessons all those things don’t get fully learned until we take the steps and the steps involved experimenting. And that’s where we work on mindset and go wow this isn’t working. And instead of saying this isn’t working I’m quitting, I’m giving up and going off and ruminating and having all that mind turn we stop and we say wait a second. Is there another way to look at this? Is there another option? Would it be okay if my son went to school an hour and a half earlier? Would it be so bad? What if it’s different in a good way? And I won’t know until I try it once. Right. And this takes wisdom and practice because sometimes you are going down a dead end might not be a dead end for someone else but it might be a dead end for you. And so it’s important to be able to see that I started a company many years ago before I became a government employee and it was called I. S. D. Jobs and that was for instructional design jobs. I had this idea to specifically have a website focused on hiring instructional designers, directors of training, technical writers, anything to do with creating training and development products. I was going to create a site that would be where you’d hire them from. Right? And I had been a recruiter and I had worked with all the job boards, posting things. I had worked behind the scenes pulling resumes and finding the right people for the recruiters to consider and then I would set up interviews to take them through the process. This is when I was a recruiting coordinator and then I became a recruiter and I was doing the recruiting and then of course later I became hiring manager for many positions and was still part of that recruiting process in a different way. So had both corporate and government experience later. But coming into that I was excited because I had the knowledge to know how to recruit. I had the knowledge to know about what should go in those job descriptions for both sides. Right? And I had worked for teachers, teachers dot com which is an online resume database. And I thought I can take so many lessons learned and apply it to this website. So I hired a guy got the website going and he started adding the database and everything and then a different opportunity came up. I was actually hired by the government to be a project manager and production manager. And so I was then leading teams that had instructional designers on them. But I realized at that point that it might be a conflict of interest for me to manage a website and also be managing government contracts. So I stopped. That idea was that time and effort wasted. It was not right because I chose not to waste it. That experience gave me great insight into being able to clarify requirements to hand over to another person to see if they could produce the product that was in my mind or produce it even better than what I imagined because they had more knowledge than I did on databases within web design. But I failed forward and then there’s a point where I failed to try. But also included. That was a decision, right? It wasn’t rumination anymore. It was a decision. I have so many failures. I have this long list in front of me that I was going to pull stories from and you know, as I speak, some of them become less important to share than others. More recently, I feel like I have had some large failures both in failing forward and failing to try. I can create content all day long, right? But somehow I fail in part of my marketing and so that’s something I’m curious about and I’m looking into to go, what do I do, do I hire someone to help me with that as I’m also figuring out other forms of work that I enjoy and I’m working on or do I let it be for a while and make a decision on it? So it’s not something that I’m ruminating on, that, it’s something I’ve made a decision on. So it’s not a failure to try anymore. It’s just a halt, right? It’s just hitting that pause button for a little while as I figure some other things out. But I have conducted a few pilots of some courses and workshops where I’ve had participation and great experiences in some of those and not so great in others. In fact, I’ve had moments where I’ve sent out emails for feedback and gotten zero feedback and I can choose to make that mean something terrible about me. And I can choose to hope that people didn’t see the email and they just were busy or tried not to didn’t respond or whatever. But that feels like a failure to me because I have no idea whether it added value to the individuals or not. And I sincerely want to know. But in that process of ruminating over that kind of thing, like the pilots that I didn’t get feedback on, I have chosen to turn it into a failing forward, right to go. I’m going to keep trying this, but maybe I haven’t quite figured out the right way to do it because I think I’ve got some nuggets to share that are valuable but maybe I haven’t figured out the right way to share them or the right timing or the right story to share them. And what I think is fascinating is this week I had an Aha as I was watching someone else speak and I really resonated with the person the way they shared the information, the way they shared the stories, the credit they gave to others that helps them have the idea and I thought about it like why are they resonating with me right now? And in that process I realized, oh I think I understand why I appreciate their stories, I appreciate the resources they draw from and the credit they give to them. But I also understand concepts in ways where you present to me almost too much information and my mind gets to decide what is that information is useful to me versus what I’ve been trying to do, which is trying to drastically simplify certain concepts and then share a lot of concepts. Alright, so yeah, I’m going to share A simple concept but I’m going to share 10 simple concepts at once and your brain doesn’t have any space to choose from it what you want because every piece is important if that makes sense. That was an aha for me because I would like to do that, I would like to share all the details of something that I know using stories and resources and then pull out the principles from it. Kind of how I am on the podcast right? I kind of share some bits and stories. Well I’ve pulled those from different books from different things I’ve read from different reflections and I’m pulling it down and sharing it in this moment and I’m completely fine referencing other people and that was another aha for me that I don’t want to stand up there and talk about everything. I think just from myself, I love to reference other people. I love to reference that I had this great story come to my mind because I was listening to rare faith by his Leslie householder and I had an aha or that I was reading from Seth Godin or I heard Brooke castello coach, I was talking to my brothers and I had an idea or my sister’s pointed something out, right, Hey Becca, why don’t you try this? Hey Becca, I was wondering when are you going to talk more about this? Hey Becca, have you read this book? I, I love those kind of interactions right where someone starts to think of me because they want to learn from me or ask me my opinions on something but they also want to run to me and say here Rebecca, I have a book for you and Kathy russell just did that with me last week gave me a book about disrupt yourself and I’ll talk about that in another episode because that’s very important to my life work. I will continue to fail and I will continue to fail to try and to fail forward and these are always wrapped up in the same person. That’s how it is. Again, I don’t make the rules, that’s how life is, There’s the yin and the yang, the opposition in all things, the tough stuff before the good stuff, the ebbs and flows of life, the rhythm and all the things. We get to experience them all in our quest to offer up our best work. I encourage you today to just take a step of paying attention to your mind when you’re failing at something and go and ask yourself, am I being aware right now of whether or not I’m failing forward or failing to try and once I’m aware of it, what am I going to do about it? And I go, oh, I do want to sit here and ruminate for a while, I need to ask myself these questions. I need to just feel bad, I need to feel like a failure for a moment, that kind of thing. But at some point saying, okay, am I ready now to fail forward, Can I take a small step to experiment, Can I just take a small step to experiment and as I take that small step, pay attention if I fail with that small stick, what am I going to learn? What what what’s in this for me? I shared with you that I have created books and blogs and websites and gone through and learned a lot about it. And even though my books and my courses and everything are not best sellers at this time, I will tell you that all the lessons I’ve learned have been valuable in that process. It was immensely valuable when we would have contractors come to us in the government and try to sell us on certain products and then tell us it would cost a certain amount. And I was able to say time out that’s actually not how much effort it takes. That task is easy and that task is harder than what you said. No, I didn’t sit there and call them on the carpet most of the time. But I was able to make decisions as a project manager and a production manager because I have the knowledge of doing it myself. I know how to do every part of my podcast, I know how to record it. I found my own music and I found the websites to find the music from. I found the tool based upon recommendations. People gave me, I decided which tool to use to deliver my podcast and I had great challenges and mistakes and lessons learned in my mind in order to make those decisions because I feel like the tools I’ve selected are meeting the exact requirements I need and do it in the simplest possible way for me and I know how to do that because I’ve been through the process is and I know where to make certain choices and what tradeoffs are involved. That’s called wisdom. That’s what failing forward gives us is wisdom to help us make other decisions. I have been able to hire the right people for certain work because I know what they’re talking about when they share certain stories. I know if they’ve been through the pain by what they say and how they present themselves and whether they can estimate the amount of time it takes or the tools involved properly. That’s wisdom that becomes a talent in and of itself. Even if my own product isn’t the best seller, if that makes sense. Because what becomes my biggest attribute and set of skills becomes helping people create their own best sellers create their own things because I know how it’s done. So interesting. No experience is wasted unless of course you waste it. Okay, quoting myself in my own podcast. So funny. Okay, I hope you have a great week. Pay attention, become aware. Take time to fail forward. Take time when you fail to try to increase your awareness of your mindset, you’re doing great. Take that next step to offer up your best work. I’ll talk to you soon, mm hmm. Thanks for listening to the show today. If you enjoyed it. I’d love if you’d write a review and share the show with your friends, sign up for a weekly nudge at move your desk dot com. Mhm.