2011: The Year I Learned To Fail
As 2011 comes to an end, and I reflect about what over the year (which was a lot) and what I learned (which was tons) there is one thing that stands out. The one signal that God gave me over and over again, in tiniest details and in big, large letters was something simple, but took me a long time to understand.
It was that failure is OK. No, in fact, failure is a good thing. You can learn from failures, but you can’t learn if you don’t at least try. And, if you try, you may actually succeed.
The first sign of this was when I attended the Omaha Young Professionals conference in March. I really went to hear Cory Booker but it was Jason Seiden’s talk that really spoke most to me. His talk was entitled “The Art of Failing Spectacularly”. And it was about just that — it’s OK to fail, as long as you learn from it. But if you did something, at least you did something, as opposed to sitting on the sidelines, fearing what might happen if you live your story.
The next signal was from Seth Godin. I had never really followed Godin before, but just after I heard Seiden’s talk, I followed a link from somewhere about a free Kindle book. I love my Kindle and I love free. The book was Poke The Box. And what was it about? Starting something, getting over the fear of failure. The same message came twice in six weeks. I’m now listening.
So I set out to, as Godin would say, poke the box. I was more careful at first at what I was going to poke. I work where the culture as a whole looks at change with a lot of suspect, but my management was open to a lot more change. So I started just doing stuff and making suggestions that were different, and feared. Most took, a few did not.
At my day job, I’m working with a team to replace an aging mainframe system. And we have been given some leeway on how to accomplish our end-goal. So I’ve been suggesting things that I would like to have done. Sometimes they are accepted, sometimes they aren’t. And (uncharacteristic of me) I’ve started to push back on management when I think they have bad ideas or are pushing us in a direction that I feel is not quite right. Sometimes I win and sometimes I lose, but, more importantly — I’ve won a lot of respect. And I find that I’m listened to more now than I ever have been there..
And I also have my side business, which is doing quite well. I changed a few things there, too — I now have clients on support contracts, have sub-contracted work to others, and worked with some great people as well. From the beginning, SquarePeg Systems has been a “let’s see if this works” and, despite it’s humble beginnings, it has.
As a family, we poked the box a lot. We were finally able to adopt Tyler after living with us for almost two years. The biggest changes this year has been starting (and all but finishing) a remodeling project in our living room (OK, headed up by Gina — she has the vision for these kind of projects. I don’t.) and switching to Coram Deo Church. The church decision was hard — we loved the people at Prairie Lane, but we wanted to be challenged in a different way. And God led us to Corem and we have been blessed (and challenged) by it ever since.
There are lots more signals I got about trying, and failing, and keep trying over the year. I could go on and on. But I’d rather poke the box then keep talking about it.
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