Why We Should All Find Courage To Fail More

courage-imperfect

Residents were outraged in the town of Reading, PA in November when the city erected a very sad-looking Christmas tree in town center. Residents were so bothered by it that their disapproval made national news. The City Council president even led a charge to have the tree replaced.

When I first heard the story, I thought of my own Christmas tree experiences growing up. Each year, dad and I headed out to pick our tree and my mom would remind us to pick a tree that was “healthy, full and not too large.” And each year, dad and I would return with what my mom called a “Charlie Brown Tree.” My intentions were good–I never meant to ignore my mother’s requests–but as we walked through the rows of trees, there was always that one, you know the tree I’m talking about, the straggly, half-dead already tree that was missing branches on an entire side, was entirely too tall for the amount of needles left on its limbs and typically, it leaned drastically to one side, which would cause the ornaments to fall of the day we put them on.

I felt sad for the residents of Reading, PA who thought that their Christmas tree was an embarrassment. I wished they could see it for its beauty and purpose–to bring people together and create a sense of connection with one another.

This week, a new report came out–the city had decided to embrace their “ugly” tree and even dubbed it a “Charlie Brown Tree.” People were coming from all over the country to see the tree and celebrate it’s imperfection and beauty.

Reminiscing over my own love-affair with the “Charlie Brown” imperfections in life, I realize that it’s easier to embrace them when they are imperfections that are not my own. The things I view as strength and courage in others because of their imperfection, I typically view as inexcusable failures in myself.

It’s terribly hard to embrace things that have the potential to make us feel vulnerable, exposed or not-enough. Lately, I haven’t written much. It’s not that I don’t want to, I’ve just let the fact that I haven’t had the same luxury of time to write stop me from writing anything, in fear that it wouldn’t the best I could do. Working out has sadly the same theme. Sidelined for a few months after foot surgery, I’ve let my disappointment of losing my normal “fitness” level stop me from finding the time to do anything at all. And because I’ve been traveling a good bit the last month, I told myself that I shouldn’t even bother putting up a Christmas tree, since it wouldn’t be the quality of spirited decorating that I typically dedicate to this time of year. In the case of each of those things, I let my perspective that I would not do them well enough stop me from doing them at all, robbing me of the happiness I know I would get from them if I just tried.

Maybe there’s nothing to the story of tree in the town center of Reading, PA other than was something the media latched on to and made popular. I choose to see it as a great reminder that what is not-enough for some could be perfect to others. It’s a reminder to embrace my own imperfections and live more authentically because of them, not despite them. Everyone loves a good underdog success story but someone’s got to muster up the courage to be that underdog after all.

I Am Thankful For Possibility and Courage

thanksgivingdayoverstreetblogpostimage

It starts with reflection. This time of year lends itself to loads of it. What am I thankful for? I am thankful for  memories of my grandmother who cherry scent of Jergen’s and Aquanet I can still imagine. I’m thankful for Grace and Suzie, who have reminded me to be be young and silly and for my little sister, another beautiful Grace in my life, who embodies what her name truly is.

I’m thankful for my parents, who are at home with my little blind rescue dog who has a biting habit. I’m thankful for Matt–we’ve both always said that we’re “just quirky enough” for one another and for his family who have shown me different ways of viewing the world.. I’m thankful for Jaime, an amazing woman who rescues animals. While we’ve only met in person once, I feel  very connected to her. I’m thankful for Ellie, Sommer, Katie , Lisa and Beth–they are exceptional at being who they are and allowing me to do the same. I am thankful for the job I have, the people I work with, the community I serve, the groups I belong to, the people in my life, too many to name all at once, and the many other blessings I probably take for granted every day.

Still, in the spirit of reflection, humility and gratefulness, I realize that I am thankful for the things I don’t naturally view as blessings. I am grateful for the things I am afraid of, for the mistakes I’ve made and the failures I’ve overcome. I’m thankful (now) that I have always felt a “little different” because in hindsight, fitting in was never my purpose. 

As you reflect on the things that you are thankful for, please don’t let fear of losings these things stand in your way of experiencing them to the fullest. Be grateful that you have choice and control in your own lives. Please don’t be afraid to do new things, meet new people, try a new job, do something outside of your comfort zone, or in some cases, stay true to yourself even when everyone around you seems determined to conform to the opposite. 

If we allow ourselves to stretch beyond what we know and what we are certain of we will never run short of the endless amount of things we could be grateful for–we should always push ourselves to find them. 

To Anyone Who Feels They Don’t Fit In

here's to the crazy ones

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them; disagree with them; glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. Maybe they have to be crazy. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do…”  -Apple, Inc.

Hello Means So Much (We Are All In This Together)

Antonio Fidalgo

In South Africa, people greet one another as they pass by even if they don’t know each other. When passing, one person says, “Sikhona,” meaning “I am here to be seen,” and the other responds, “Sawubona,” meaning “I see you.”

Think about that:

“I am here to be seen.”

“I see you.”

How many people do we go by every day that we never really see?

I used to think that this type of fleeting small talk was superficial. I didn’t see the value in “Hi, how are you?” and “I’m good, thanks. And you?” And the weather, I never understood why people felt the need to say “beautiful day out” or “gosh, this rain sure can stop anytime.”

The Zulu believe the formal exchange of a greeting invokes a person’s spirit to fully inhabit the moment. “I am here to be seen” means “this is who I am and I will speak honestly, without deception.” “I see you,” is an affirmation that the person responding will let go of any preconceptions or judgements and see that person just as they are.

Yesterday morning, when I was out walking the dogs, a man walked past me and said hello. I said good morning back. He stopped walking, turned to me and said “what a beautiful day today.” It was pretty dreary and wet outside and that’s what I had thought about when I stepped outside with dogs. But this man was on to something–the air was crisp and cool but not too cold, the orange and red leaves of the turning trees glistened from a night of heavy rain.

I responded to the man “you’re right, we are lucky to have such a lovely morning.” He said he had just moved from New York City to take care of his aging mother and that back in the city, he missed seeing such a lovely fall. In all, our conversation lasted less than a minute. I couldn’t help but feel more aware; more alive, as I walked back to the house with the dogs.

When we greet another person; when we say hello, ask how they are doing and even comment on the weather, we are acknowledging that we see one another. It doesn’t matter that we know nothing about the person we’re speaking to and even that we will possibly never see or interact with them again. At that moment, we are affirming that we both exist, we are both equal, and we will give each other the mutual respect we should always give others.

The Zulu would say that greetings “bring each other into existence.” They are a reminder that in the unpredictable of often painful struggles of life and of death, none of us is in this alone.

Sawubona, my friends–welcome to this important day, I see you.

Photo Cred: Antonio Fidalgo

How To Stop Standing In Your Own Way

MTS Creates

To find our own way we have to get out of our own way. We’ve got to let go of “the way things are”. We’ve got to just do despite our fear of judgment, failure or uncertainty. We’ve got to stick it out, stand up for it, bleed for it and push through the minutia on the way there.

And when we’re in the thick of things, when we feel most vulnerable and begin to listen to our inner critics, when it feels like we’re making a mess of everything, possibly the most important thing to remember is that we’re doing just fine. It’ll be okay. We’re doing the tough stuff. We’ve got grit. We’re learning. We’re getting closer by making mistakes. We’re better today than we were yesterday–we’re doing just fine.

 

Illustration Courtesy of MTSCreates

 

Be Willing To Fail Like Steve Jobs

Apple Store
Do you ever get caught up in your own perceptions so much that it stops you from moving forward?

Have you ever worked incredibly hard on a project, when 3/4 of the way through it, you realize you’ve been seeing the problem wrong and there’s a better solution than the one you’ve been working towards, yet you didn’t want to take the loss and start over?

What about the time you made a mistake but instead of owning up to it and moving forward, you pushed it under the rug or directed the attention elsewhere?

We stumble on decisions like these when our focus is intensely on ourselves: “How will I look?”  “What will people think?” “I’ll never recover.”At the same time, we lose perspective on reality–we let the ego take over and stop us from doing amazing things.

Max De Pree wrote that great leaders are able to “define reality.” But removing ego from our own lives can prove challenging. It takes never-ending practice and the full-on embracing of vulnerability….and lots of mistakes and the willingness to make them.

Ron Johnson, Apple’s former Senior VP of Retail Operations, in an interview for the Stanford Business School, recounted an experience with Steve Jobs that exemplifies what it means to truly remove ego to do what is remarkable.

One day, before Apple opened its first store in May 2001, Johnson was riding with Steve Jobs to a weekly planning meeting about the store Johnson was charged with designing. Johnson told his boss, “Steve, I’ve been thinking. I think the store’s organized all wrong. We’ve organized it like a retail store around products, but if Apple’s going to organize around activities like music and movies, well, the store should be organized around music, and movies, and things you do,’” Johnson recalls. “And he looked at me and he said, ‘Do you know how big a change that is? I don’t have time to redesign the store.’ Then 10 minutes later, Jobs walked into the meeting and said, “Well, Ron thinks our store is all wrong. And he’s right, so I’m going to leave now. And Ron, you work with the team and design the store.” 

Most people haven’t had to pull an emergency stop on something as extreme as the launch of the first Apple Store, but it’s an great example of what it means to remove the ego in order to do truly great things. Jobs was able to admit he was wrong, recognize that even though he was set to launch, there was a better way and it would, in the long run, benefit the company to delay the store opening and start all over.

There is tremendous power in the ability to see what’s going on around us, to accept reality and to make changes–to remove ego from the way we work, live and lead.

 
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