Thursday, August 4, 2011

Fail your way to success.

W.H. Auden said, in one of The Second Coming, one of his most famous poems,  that "things fall apart, the center cannot hold.", but whether you believe that or not, there is no secret that things change. Life, death, sickness, marriage, divorce, a new career, the loss of a job. Things change.

Change is often inconvenient. At least it has been for me. It's often scary and never happens at a good time. (Can someone tell me what a good time would be?).  Our first thought when things change unexpectedly is rarely to jump up and down and say "Oh, Goody!". We are more likely to wring our hands and worry.

That is the way most of us are wired. We want security. We want things to be comfortable, familiar, safe. If only life worked that way.

I have to tell you, I have given up on the idea of comfortable, secure and safe. Don't get me wrong, I have had periods of all three in my life and they were wonderful. But I have learned that mostly, they do not last.

Knowing that means I can either let life's explosions knock me down, or use them as a catalyst for improvement.   I have lost two jobs to layoffs in my life. I am divorced. I've come close to dying twice. My list of unexpected changed and failures could loom pretty large.

And I won't lie to you. Those changes hit me hard at first. I suffered shock in most of those episodes that left me beaten down, unfocused, not much use to anyone.

But the thing is, those were episodes, not who I was, and in each case, I found my way back, and after the initial shock, used those knockdowns. I have been able to say, "OK, this has changed. Why? What do I need to keep from before the change and what do I need to think about changing for the better."

Embrace the change. Get help if you need it. (Heaven knows, I didn't do it all alone.). Get a coach, a mentor, a counselor, a clear headed friend, and embrace it. Grow with it,

Here's the other part of what I have learned. If we let it, change improves us and our circumstances. I'd hate to think what a milktoast of a person I would be without some of the changes I hated and dreaded so much. I am scarred, but stronger. I am wounded, but wiser. I have failed, but I have failed my way to success time and time again.

And I am nothing extraordinary. I am just like you. Know what that means?

You can fail your way to success too.

Creative people often know this instinctively. Because they have drawn or written or composed or painted a lot of bad art to get to the good, final piece. That's what artists do, create, fail, create fail, create and fail again until they get it right. SOmehow though, they find joy in the creative process, even when they don't get it right at first.

That's part of why I think creative people can potentially be great managers. They don't punish people for their failures as long as the failures are not repeated, and are used as a stepping stone to success. They understand that change and failure and experimentation are part of the path to something far, far greater.

People who know me know I am a person of faith. In the bible, my favorite character is Peter, who fails again and again, whose life changes radically when he chooses to follow Jesus, changes again when Christ is crucified, again when he was raised and again at the time before Penticost. What a roller coaster he lived on. yet, in the end, he is portrayed as a great man of God. The keys of the kingdom were handed to Peter of the holy roller coaster.

So, and I am talking to myself as well as anyone here, when change happens, it's OK to let it knock the wind out of you... for a short while. But then it's time to get up and put it that change to work for you. Because it can.

If we let it.


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