Friday, March 8, 2013

The Fine Art of Stewarding Failure

I got an F on a test.
I forgot the words to a speech in front of a crowd.
I missed a deadline.
I wasn't there for a friend.
I had a relationship go sour.
I didn't reach my fitness goal.
I opened my mouth at the wrong time and said the wrong thing.
I didn't get the job.



The above list... I've fallen short in every one of those things.  Some of them, multiple times.That makes that old saying "Failure is NOT and option!" feel like an awful lot of pressure.

The truth is that failure is inevitable.  It happens to all of us.  We fail at relationships, business ventures, goals... failure is a part of life.  It is not a matter of if you ever fail, but a matter of when you will fail at something.  It is a reality of existing.

If you have failed is not nearly as important as how you steward the failure. 

When failure comes, you have an equal responsibility to manage and use that experience as you would have if you had been successful in your actions.   It's easier to keep pride in check and use a victory as a launching point for good than it is to swallow your pride and use a failure as a ladder to redemption. Even though it is hard, it is your responsibility as a steward of your life.

There is a fine art to being a good steward of failure. I is an ART of Accountability, Revamping, and Taking a step.

Accountability- Take a good hard look at yourself and the situation.  A gut reaction (yes... I know this from personal experience) is to list all of the reasons outside of yourself for the failing.  If this person had done this...  I would have done that but... It wasn't my fault because...

Unclench your pointing hand and use your fingers to count the areas where your accountability lies. MOST of the time there is something you could have done differently in the situation.  You could have prepared, investigated, reacted, worked, communicated, or considered the situation differently - either during the event that failed, or after.  It may or may not have changed the outcome. But when you assess what you own it will also show you what you did right. Taking accountability for what you own in the situation both the good and the bad, gives you your power back over failure.

Revamping-  If your endeavor failed you already know that something needs to be revamped.  The way to revamp isn't always easy to apply because those things may have been caused by actions that are steeped in our habits. Habits are hard to break.  If you saw that communication was an issue in the challenge, but you naturally have a flare for snark and sarcasm, it might not be staring you in the face that your style of communication wasn't right for the situation - because it is your habit.  If it was a financial issue that was the challenge, you may need to change your attitudes about finances - rooted in your habits.

Be willing to move outside of your box (but not outside your ethics or character) to revamp.  Rethink the event from a different perspective and from a different routine. If it involved another person, put yourself in the other party's shoes with their ears and expectations and think of what you would have expected if you were them.  If it is a personal failure, think of the successful you as the other party. Instead of focussing on the limitations of the boundaries, look at all of the possibilities inside of them, and be willing to consider if the boundaries can be rearranged.  Change up how you rerun the failure in your head.  It's sort of like proofreading backwards - you catch, revamp and apply solutions more easily when you don't automatically process what comes next in the  text of the situation.

Take A Step- This is often the scariest part. It's tough to go back into the ring when you were knocked down.  You don't want a repeat.  That punch to the gut hurt and you don't want  your pride hurt. You don't want to feel embarrassed. You think it's easier to keep it out of sight and out of mind.

But, if you don't step back into it, you don't move forward. You don't grow. You don't know what could be and what you are capable of.   The lessons learned from the failure stay as knowledge in your head, but don't become the wisdom of the experienced until you take a step and apply them. Use the lessons as safety padding and take the step. The best that can happen is that you will be successful.  The worst is that you will not succeed again - but you have the the protective gear the second time around.

Falling short is never a fun thing.  But, it is part of life and often can be a good thing - when it is stewarded well.  Stewarding it is a fine art of Accountability, Revamping, and Taking a Step. Failure may not be an option you choose. But it is a reality you face, and you have an equal responsibility to be a good steward of the failures as you do of the successes.

Do you play the blame game when you fail?
Is there a failure that you are keeping out of sight and out of mind? 

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