We are a culture of success. We want everything to be perfect, dialed, and done right the first time.
My father ingrained it into us as kids “do it right the first time.” I do not know if that was ingrained in him as a kid or if it was after being in the military, but he was hard-core and would often yell if we did things (mostly chores) and our results were not up to his standard. Imagine over time knowing that if it was not perfect the first time — you would receive his anger and frustration. Yet, it meant that we only learned to fail with negative consequences.
When I heard about Pema Chodron’s book: “Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better: Wise Advice for Leaning into the Unknown” I knew I had to read it. It is the transcription of her 2014 commencement address at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. Her granddaughter is in the graduating class. It is a quick read (a book with text on only the right side pages, and small, so it can be read in less than an hour), but a powerful message.
I love this idea she shares:
“‘Fail better’ means you being to have the ability to hold what I called in the talk ‘the rawness of vulnerability’ in your heart, and see it as your connection with other human beings and as part of humanness. Failing better means when these things happen in your life, they become a source of growth, a source of forward, a source of, as I say in the talk, ‘out of that place of rawness you can really communicate genuinely with other people’.” Page 115
To think about failing and being vulnerable — that is where we learn. There is so much I can take from this in work and home life, and especially with this ‘lil man that is going to soon join us. I vow to let my son learn in his own way, fail, and be vulnerable. Hopefully it means he will not have the message that has haunted me for years — that I always had to do it right the first time.
Where do we learn the behaviors that make up who we are? For some reason I was retrospective today. Thinking about my childhood, my teens, college, and my early professional career. At each stage I was a different person and I am still growing into who that is today.
As a kid I was definitely strategic (even if I did not know it at the time). I would find a way to con candy out of the old ladies at church (maybe I would not have resorted to it if it was given a little more freely at home). I learned early on that my sister would get sick on rides at the county fair, so if I asked to go on the spinning ones first I could potentially get the rest of her ride tickets. I was often quiet in the presence of my father when I knew he was in a bad mood, I did not dare piss him off. And I was fun and playful. I liked to be silly.
Somehow as I grew into being a teenager, I grew quieter and more introverted. I had seen too much in my life. Death, anger, poverty, sickness, desertion. As I look back at my senior year of high school, I feel a sadness. I barely made it through to graduation. I was lost and sad, but did not really know it at the time. On the outside I probably looked fairly normal. I was social, had friends, was a cheerleader, but my sadness came from not really having a home or parents to ground my day-to-day life. My last three years of high school were spent at a boarding school, so living away from home (that did not exist) sans parents was strange and so different from my classmates and friends. There was no one I could really relate to.
In college, I eventually found my way and I found my voice. That voice evolved into my professional life and experiences. I began to speak up for what I believed in without fear and decided that I had something to say and did not care what others thought of me.
Throughout it all I have been strategic, relentless, and thrifty. When I decide I want something I figure out how I am going to get it. I had to be that way. No one was taking care of me through high school or college so I learned early on to depend on no one but myself. While I now have people I depend on in my life, there is still always a thread that floats in the back of my mind. Will they drop the ball and I will have to pick it up? Will they follow through with what they said they will do? Each stage of my life has evolved into who I am today. Strategic, sometimes introverted, sometimes extroverted, intuitive, blunt, thrifty, and relentless. I have to trust you, and when I do the rest is history.
Chris knows how relentless I am. If I decide that I want something, I will do whatever I can to get it. Always. Which is why I love Seth Godin’s blog titled: “‘Pick yourself’ and taking responsibility.” Where he talks about taking responsibility for what you want:
“If you want to be responsible for making music, make music. If you want to be responsible for writing, speaking, making change happen, go do that. Waiting to get picked is a form of hiding, not realism.”
Somehow halfway through college I stopped deciding that anyone else was going to determine my future. Only I could do that. I stopped holding my thoughts and words inside. I started speaking out loud, and sometimes it came out with fire, and anger, and zeal. Over time I have honed that voice. Sometimes it is strong, loud, and abrupt, and other times it is soft, gentle, and emphatic. It depends on the situation. I know I will continue to hone and balance what I want with the fervor of getting my voice out. It is not always easy, and it does not always come out with poise. What matters first is that it is spoken.
Now that I know what it feels like to pick me, all I can want for others is that you pick you. It matters. Whether you are a mom, or a sister, or an amazing employee, others will always find ways to run you over, take advantage, and get what they want. You are the only one that can pick you. You are the only one that can truly take a stand. You do so by taking a stand for you. You cannot wait for others to step up and pick you. You have to pick you. Set aside time for you. Get a babysitter, take a day off, say no. Do it so you have a chance to put yourself first. I guarantee that you will feel the difference.
We always have this moment, and the next, and the next. We always have the option to decide how to respond and react. We can lash out or respond with poise. We always have a choice. Last week after writing about how Marianne Williamson was running for Congress in California, I continued to research and read about what she has been doing. This led me to finding her blog, and one comment in particular resonated with me:
“We make moment-by-moment decisions what kind of people to be — whether to be someone who blesses, or who blames; someone who obsesses about past and future, or who dwells fully in the present; someone who whines about problems, or who creates solutions. It’s always our choice what attitudinal ground to stand on: the emotional quicksand of negative thinking, or the airstrip of spiritual flight.”
I want to be someone who blesses, dwells in the present, and creates solutions. I can tell you that I sometimes get sucked into the emotional quicksand of negative thinking. Yet, if we make moment-by-moment decisions, then we can fix that negative thinking in the next moment. I saw that last week when I was angry with someone. I really do not like feeling angry. I do not like how it makes my body or my mind feel. It makes me feel off. However, I have a hard time saying I was wrong, or forgiving.
Last week however, I leveraged that moment-by-moment decision-making. I allowed myself to be angry for a few hours, and then I thought, “What a waste!” Sure I am still bummed by what happened, but does it do me any good to be angry? No. So I told this individual that I had forgiven them (well almost). I did it in a way that made me feel like the bigger person (I was not completely ready to let them off the hook).
It was progress though. That is all we have to do each day is make progress in becoming the individual we want to be, to unearth the individual we already are.
“You lose all your control when you lose your temper.” Author unknown.
I do not know where I read it, or who might have shared this idea with me, but it is a good reminder on those tough days when continuous curve balls are thrown your way. Whether it be the angry driver you encounter on the way to work, the woman who cuts in front of you at the grocery store with an overflowing basket, or the customer service agent who was curt and short with you, anger is at times hard to hold back.
For me, I find that at times my anger comes to the surface when I do not feel heard. It can happen with friends, a spouse, family, a stranger, really anyone. Their intentions might be 100% pure, but they might be distracted with their own issues, and the result makes me feel invisible.
A thought came to me the other day. For every situation where I want to react and get angry with an individual, I need to take that frustration and respond with the same love and care that I wanted all along. I will give you an example: If Chris lets me know he will take care of something for us, I then check it off my list of To-Do’s and expect he will take care of it. If I find out later that it was never handled, it might set me off, and make me feel ignored. Instead of reacting with anger, I could respond with how his actions made me feel, and what it means to me when he follows through on his promises. Yes, these are just tiny instances, but each little experience is part of a larger picture. Rather than reacting, stay in control, and share how you feel.
What do you do when you lose your temper? Why do you lose it?