Who embraces failure? We read business books about the value of failure. We watch TedTalks about it. Ask any business person, when things are good, about their thoughts on failure and you will hear many logical, balanced and positive perspectives on the topic. They are all very hypothetical and inspirational.
But when the shit hits the fan and we screw up, we aren’t thinking “what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger”. We’re thinking, “kill me please.”
Failure is like Buckley’s. It tastes awful but it works to help us grow…with one caveat – as long as we are smart enough to learn from it.
Hearing real stories from the trenches from real people we know is far more valuable than trite phrases and memes. But we don’t share the stories of our epic failures. We push them out of sight for fear that they provide evidence that we are incompetent, irresponsible and likely not worthy of breathing the same air as all of our super-competent colleagues.
Suppose we chose to share our experiences as evidence, instead, that we earned our stripes. That we push the boundaries and try new things and in doing so, figure out we don’t always know what we don’t know. Evidence that we have learned big life lessons about things like trusting our instincts, asking for help or possibly learning whom we should trust.
If we chose to share these stories some pretty cool things could happen like:
1. Owning and laughing at our experiences casts shame and fear into the shadows.
2. We give others permission to be less than perfect too. I won’t point out the fact that we were less than perfect with or without being given permission.
3. We connect deeply with others. I don’t care if your epic screw up happened on a safari in Kenya. I guarantee you there is core learning that would be relevant to a barista in a suburban Starbucks.
4. We create the space for more open, candid conversations. I mean, after you share the story about the time you called the CEO of your company by the wrong name, there are no appearances to be kept up.
I think it’s time we own our stories and keep it real rather than keeping up appearances.