Since it's graduation time, all these big wigs from all over the country are giving commencement speeches about success. And one of the themes I noticed (maybe because I sensed that this particular fail was about to happen), was the idea of failing well. To be successful also means being able to take the blows, the let-downs, and learn from them. Not just brush it off as bad luck, bad business, bad people. Really, really learn from the mistake, and grow.
When you are not in the midst of a bad fail, this is easy advice to take. Here is Anna in her 'cap' and gown as she graduated pre-school last week:
She's feeling pretty good about life, and rightfully so. I could have taken her aside at this moment and told her that life is full of ups and downs and she should prepare for setbacks. And her response (like anyone else who might be riding a pretty great wave) would be something like, 'yeah, sure. Now where's my graduation cake?'
But when you're in it, watching the walls crumble around you, it's hard to remember that setbacks are just a part of life. They feel like the definition of life, of you, of your worth.*
*I'm over-dramatizing for effect. Seriously, I'm fine. Don't worry.
Here is what I've learned from this particular fail. Read not while you're in a cap and gown looking at all the wonderful opportunities in the world, but rather while you're eating a pint of ice cream and kicking yourself after you've blown it.
1. Admit where you went wrong
I posted about this a long time ago, the lost art of apology. For some reason we live in a society now where apologies = accepting full blame, and therefore should be avoided. In my particular case, I felt pretty 'right' about some of the decisions I'd made. But there were places I admit I went wrong. So I apologized for those things, even though it sucked, but not for the whole thing, because that wouldn't be fair to me.
2. Trust your gut
A woman in her thirties has quite an intuition. It's something that should be celebrated, not ignored. I sensed I was making some mistakes during this particular failing. Now I know I should have paid closer attention to those worries.
3. Walk it out
There's an old adage about talking to trees. Something about how if you talk long enough, they will tell you the answers. I didn't technically talk to the trees, but since I am a terrible sleeper during times of stress, I took a whole lot of walks. It was during those times that I realized that yes, I had failed, and I had to embrace the road before me as including that failure.
Aaron is a fabulous walking partner.
4. Realize you aren't responsible for other people's happiness
I am soooooo glad I made this New Year's resolution in January. I have come back to it a million times over the last week or so. I am not-- NOT-- responsible for other people's happiness. It's a fool's errand to try. So part of embracing failure is to admit that some bridges may be burned along the way. It's a bummer. But it's also okay.
I'm being intentionally vague in this post (sorry), but instead of eating ice cream I'm using what I've always used in times of stress- writing. It's through this type reflection that I'm able to really recognize what I've learned, and fail well. As well as I can, anyway. So maybe the trick to failing well means failing consciously? Maybe. I should ask a woman in her forties what she thinks.