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.
Goodness. Somedays it is hard to see it. Somedays are a struggle and it is harder to see the goodness in our lives. I ebb and flow with reminding myself that I need to focus on the good that is all around me. Usually when I have a moment of struggle and frustration I go down on my knees and am reminded of all that I have, all the goodness that surrounds me each and every day. Those moments of gratitude helps me to see what I am forgetting. Those moments remind us of the bigger picture.
Recently, I came across this excerpt from Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love)’s Facebook page:
“The other day, the great author and sociologist Brené Brown (my sweet friend!) was asked, “What do you know for sure?”
She replied: “Fear is dangerous. But people are good.”
The evidence that people are good can be found all around us.
The evidence that fear is dangerous can also be found all around us — particularly because of the terrible things that fear makes people do (both to themselves and to each other.)
We all live amidst fear and goodness — and their consequences.
We are all composed of both fear and goodness.
You have a choice. Every moment of the day, you have choices.
You can follow your goodness, not your fear.
You can feed your goodness, not your fear.
You can support and encourage the goodness of others, rather than preying upon their fears or adding to their fears.
To choose goodness over fear is the single most life-affirming path a human being can ever possibly take.”
It was a good reminder for me. There is goodness in watching my niece do things for the first time. There is goodness in my day-to-day world. My marriage, my job, my family, friends, and home. Lots of good is happening around me. We all have a choice to decide to see the goodness or not. I choose to see the goodness. I choose to be happy. I choose goodness, not fear. That does not mean that I do not have fear. I do fear, but if I can focus on the good, it means I am seeing the light, not the darkness.
“Over the past two decades I’ve delved deeply into the literature of what makes greatness. The surprising answer is that, fundamentally, humans want to be great. People want to do something purposeful—to make the world, even if just in a small way, a better place. The key is getting rid of what stands in their way, removing the impediments to their becoming who they’re capable of becoming.” Page 229
Remove the impediments. Excuses. Frustrations. Battles between co-workers. Difference of opinion. Lack of budget. No leadership support. Not enough time. Not good enough. The list can go on and on as to why we cannot finish, arrive, or show up. At times I believe we are blinded by what is standing in our way. Even if we do not see the road blocks, they’re there, so we need to remove them and move to greatness.
If you have not had the chance to watch an episode of Silicon Valley, here is an excerpt that has a funny rant about scrum.
Softness. It is a word I have not thought about extensively. Growing up I saw my mom as the quieter type, my dad often rolled right over her, I am not sure he listened to her. In college I eventually found my voice, and then I resolved to make sure my voice stayed strong. I never wanted to be walked all over. However, recently I have been thinking about taking a step away from that strong voice. Not that I will lose the strength, but that I will be more aware of the volume, and the frequency.
I often think that thoughts and ideas come to us when we are ready to hear them. I am gradually (while reading other books) getting near the end of Kristin Armstrong’s “Work in Progress,” which I wrote about in the blog post: “The grace that grounded me.” I came across this quote on softness. It was an aha moment for me.
“Softness is sweeter and more direct route to resolution, every time. Please note that by softness I do not mean wimpiness. Softness is not some puny form of compliance. It is speaking your truth without malice or apology. It is staking a claim without fanfare or unnecessary noise. It gets the job done with elegance.” page 50-51
How many times have you been on the phone with your insurance company, or bank and are so incredibly frustrated that you get nasty? I am definitely one to raise my hand here. Chris is such a great example to me of what I would call a quiet strength. He is not rude or wimpy, but he is gentle and kind with those that he interacts with in these situations. I lose my patience easily and get frustrated. Take just yesterday, I had to call my insurance company back. I had spoken to them on March 31, and their fix to my claim was supposed to take 5-7 days, and then they were going to call me back. It has been 21 days and still no resolution. The response I received when I called is that my claim is getting reprocessed and it will take another 5-10 days for one aspect and then another 10 days for a different part. Seriously? So I think it should be resolved by the middle of May. As annoyed as I was I chose softness. I was kind and not frustrated with the customer service representative. Although I did tell her I did not have much confidence in hearing from them since I did not receive any communication in the first 5-7 days like I was originally told.
Why am I sharing this with you? I took the route of softness. I did not get nasty with them. I have a short amount of patience with companies that say they will do one thing and do not follow through with their promise. Additionally I have a small amount of patience for individuals that say they will do one thing and then do not do it. And, at the end of the day, it is not the fault of the customer service representative that I spoke with that her company has such extensive processing times. Why ruin her day?
I know there are other areas of my life where I could be softer. Firm, yes. Strong, yes. Yet, still bring softness to the situation. So often frustration gets in the way and our words are lost amidst anger and impatience. What if we lead with a softer side? I am going to try to focus more on flexing my softer side.
We all have had rotten days, that we thought would never get better, but sometimes we have to look at what we can learn in those moments, and on those days. We can look at those around us, our peers, friends, and family and sometimes we see folks who look like they have it all. We covet what they have, we want their life, we think they have it easier and that their life will make us happier. Yet, is that really true?
Recently I was catching up on my Daily Om newsletters and found this one “Making Life Yours” where this quote stood out to me:
“The individuals who move through life joyously have not necessarily been blessed with lives of abundance, love, success, and prosperity. Such people have, however, been blessed with the ability to take the circumstances they’ve been handed and make them into something great.”
After having lost both of my parents, I have had others ask me: “What a great loss. How do you get by?” There are definitely days when I struggle, usually when there is a big life moment, a birthday or a holiday, but mostly I have figured out how to move on, to continue to grow, learn, and be me. I have heard others that have lost folks in their life say “It is what they would have wanted, for me to move on.” While I cannot tell you if that is true, I can tell you that living my life to the fullest is the only way I know to cope, to take my circumstances and try to make it as great as can be.
I have had a full, roller coaster week. There have been ebbs of goodness, and moments of frustration. At the end of it all, I can honestly say how grateful I am for all the good I have in my life. I may work hard, I may want more sleep and time to myself, but I love the moments where I can connect with others, learn more about how they live and love, an in turn learn about myself. We each can do more, love more, and connect more. If we attempt to lean toward the positive, we are one step closer to bringing our circumstances from good to great to amazing.