I went for my morning walk in the woods with my dogs last week and on my way back they saw a deer and went charging after it. One of them got caught on the branch of a fallen tree that was too high off the ground. The more he tried to get away, the more the branch pressed against his stomach and I could see from a distance that he as in danger of disembowelling himself. I called out to him to wait, and luckily, he stopped scrambling until I got there to help. I grabbed him by the hind legs like a wheelbarrow, which helped him complete his jump. Now here is the astounding part. Before I got a chance to assess the damage to him, he shot off straight in the direction of where he last saw the deer. It was like all that drama never happened!
This got me thinking about us human and the number of times we allow one mistake or one bad thing to stop us in our tracks. Don’t get me wrong, life is tough and terrible things happen, but it doesn’t mean they should define us.
I wonder how many people have already given up on their new year’s resolutions simply because they had a go at the same goal last year and ran into some obstacle and gave up, and they can see the same thing happening again this year; so, what is the point! That is how we end up worshipping our mistakes. We predict what is going to happen based on past experiences and then we give up.
The fact that you got passed over for promotion the last time doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t put your hat in the ring again this time. You just never know; you might be the only one that applies for it this time; plus, you have the experience from the last time that the others don’t have.
Failure is a part of life. If you don’t ever want to get caught up on the branch of life and mess up and be rescued, you will live a stunted life devoid of excitement and growth. Failure in business is perhaps better tolerated than in our personal lives. Jeff Bezos CEO of Amazon says of failure and invention that they are “inseparable twins”. In business, they ‘fail forward’ and learn from their mistakes and innovate from there. The concept of gathering data from failure for innovation is acceptable in business, but somehow that refuses to translate into our personal lives.
We don’t see personal failures as information gathering missions. Our sense of self takes a battering when we don’t lose that weight or get that promotion or parent the model child. This makes us shrink from similar experiences and retreat to well-worn behaviour patterns that we feel safe with.
Rather than build a shrine to our past mistakes and worship those mistakes, we need to take whatever lessons we can and move onto our next adventure. It is the only way we can uncover the success that is waiting to be discovered.
For those of you that have abandoned the goals you set for yourself at the start of the year because you ran into obstacles or got caught on the branch of life, don’t stop there. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and go after your goals with the useful information you have gathered from your failure.
Be like my dog, charge after the deer of your dreams. Incidentally on our next walk when we came to the same spot where he got caught on branch, I could feel my chest tightening, but he just sauntered past the branch. Wouldn’t it be cool if we could all treat our past failures like that, and saunter past them?