Failure is an opportunity.
If you blame someone else
there is no end to the blame.
Therefore the Master
fulfills her own obligations
and corrects her own mistakes.
She does what she needs to do
and demands nothing of others.
– Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
I’ve had a few setbacks this week – good things I was expecting did not come my way. I was originally frustrated until I really thought long and hard about it and realized that the things did not come my way because I hadn’t done the things I needed to do to make them happen. Expecting rewards where none were due, I blamed others and was frustrated.
Blaming others when failure is a result of your action (or in my case, inaction) is a waste of time, energy, and spirit. Focus instead on what you can do to correct your own mistakes, and in those failures, there is an opportunity for growth.
You may be made to slay dragons, but it doesn’t mean you’ll always be able to do so. Failure is inevitable, and if you’re not failing and making the occasional bad decision, you’re not doing your best work. Really showing up and dancing with the uncertainty that comes with doing your best work means you’re going to underestimate, under-prioritize, and under-prepare for a challenge that then gets the best of you. (Remember my inaction?)
The gift of failure is that it reveals what matters to you, shows you when you’re out of alignment, and reveals a growth edge.
But failure isn’t a mark of character but rather a sign that something was out of alignment. Your past failures are in the past. They aren’t predictive of what you’ll be able to do in the future. Your best bet is to follow this Cherokee proverb: “Don’t let yesterday eat up too much of today.”
Each day is a new day to try again with the lessons of yesterday as a guide, not a straightjacket.
If you want to thrash through what matters to you, get back into alignment, or experience a growth edge, pick up Start Finishing. I’ll walk you through the process from idea to done, and show you how to handle all the steps and missteps along the way.
(This selection came from Stephen Mitchell’s translation of the Tao Te Ching.)
Excellent points. There’s a post over at Freelance Folder touching on some of the same points, and it’s points we have to take to heart. As an independent professional, there is no passing the buck. We have to try our damndest to avoid failure, but when it occurs, recognize it as the opportunity it is – to earn someone’s respect by owning up to it. It’s amazing how an acknowledgment and apology can work wonders, in professional work and in personal relationships.
Great stuff, as always, Charlie 🙂
QuietRebelWriter’s last blog post..Rant: Random Word Association
Charles Gilkey says
@ Amy (QRW): I hadn’t (really) understood the downside of being a freelancer – you’re responsible for all of the success and failures. That’s rather daunting and empowering at the same time. It should have dawned on me when I was reading your excellent post on apologies (http://www.quietrebelwriter.com/2008/04/08/what-to-do-when-you-screw-up/) a few weeks ago. Maybe I was slow that day, or still recovering from the hilarity of one of your Word porn rant posts?
You commented on my blog recently that I had no need to read your blog if I wasn’t one to use productivity systems. I wondered how to respond to that because you’re right, I use my internal compass to navigate life, but I love your blog because you always have something interesting to say. You also make me think and knowledge and connection with amazing minds is what I crave pretty much above all else. (chocolate cake is a close second)
Poetic, emotive posts like this are what I love about Productive Flourishing.
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Charles Gilkey says
@ Kelly: I didn’t mean for that comment to take you aback. Basically, it seems to me you that you have a pretty in tune compass – it’s more of a compliment than it sounds. I’m glad you still find value here and that you’re still part of the conversation – I like having this blog as somewhat as a dialog with other amazing minds and writers. The blog post that you referenced inspired at least one new post, so you may see yet another link back to it. Thanks for openly being you.