Recently, my wife Rebecca and I decided we needed a weekend away together. Things have been chaotic and stressful for the last few months so we found ourselves anxious and frustrated and tired. I had taken notice and decided a weekend to relax was what the two of us really needed. To make it awesome, I booked a cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
It was going to be wonderful...
And it was...until we woke up on Saturday (just a measly 14 hours into our escapade) and discovered I had booked it for Thursday and Friday nights instead of for the weekend - Friday and Saturday nights.
Ugh. My plans were ruined. I felt like I had completely failed my wife and our restful weekend. Thankfully, though, I have THE most gracious and patient and kind wife known to man and we wound up sneaking our way back to our apartment and never telling anyone we weren't actually sipping coffee and reading books on the porch of a cabin.
I know, I know, I know - the best stories usually start with how awesome things are or how well you are managing or how amazing that experience was. Yet here we are.
No one talks about it at parties.
It isn't something you bring up on a first date or when you're sitting across from a potential job opportunity during an interview.
We suppress it, conceal it, and sometimes ignore it - yet everyone has experienced it.
And after the cabin weekend that wasn't, Rebecca repeatedly told me I was loved and forgiven; yet the word "F A I L U R E" kept creeping back into this anxious heart of mine.
This experience, along with the many other moments of failure I've caused and experienced, have taught me a few things. Many of the greatest stories we can tell happen because we royally messed up something of great value or importance. And many of life's greatest lessons come at the expense of the people and the projects we love the most.
So why don't we do a better job of talking about it? And not just talking about it, but highlighting the failure we experience in order to create teachable moments for the people in our circles? What are the things we can remember and learn from and share along the journey of moving on from the moments we've deemed as "failures?"
1) Everybody fails.
It's true. Sometimes failure involves the simple things like a DIY project gone wrong, an accidental 'Reply All' to the entire company, or forgetting the milk on the way home from work. Other times it's the serious things like a car accident or misplaced jab in an argument or booking the wrong date for the cabin weekend with your wife. Either way, failure is an every day part of life. To some degree, we all do it in some way every. single. day. The good news? That means you are not alone. So you shouldn't BE alone. Because when you choose to be alone in your struggles with failure, you isolate yourself and your dream and your vision from the greatest resource you have at your disposal: other people.
2) Admitting your failure is always better than covering it up.
I'm a control freak. I like to try to manage all the difficult moving parts that happen in my work and at my home and around my circle of influence. When (and if) I can find ways to successfully juggle all the details in my personal and professional life, I sometimes realize I've dropped the ball on something, somewhere. But when that happens, I often times conjure up an excuse or a legitimate alibi and attempt a recovery. And every now and then, it works. But when it doesn't, the cover up turns out to have made things worse. This leads to a lack of trust from those around me and/or a bigger problem for others to have to deal with. Ultimately, the thing I tried to fix and juggle and make an excuse for, turns out to be a bigger problem than before. Instead, I'm learning to admit when I've made a mistake, own it, and work with those around me to correct it moving forward. This creates trust and accountability that is crucial to healthy relationships with those I love and/or work with.
3) Failure is a thing, not a person.
Sometimes, my brain figures out a way to convince myself that the mistake or the failure or the big blaring problem is a part of who I am. I let the experience control my thoughts, emotions, and conversations; which in turn causes turmoil and confusion for those closest to me. However, you and I are NOT defined by the mistakes we make. We are defined by the lessons we learn from our mistakes and what those lessons move us to do going forward. The lessons you learn from the failure you experienced matter more than the fact you failed.
At the end of the day, we must accept that failure is a part of life. We don't have to have all the answers and things are going to be ok.
Everyone has messed up. We are all in this together.