November 3, 2014

Learning to Embrace Failures in order to Succeed


I love this quote by Michael Jordan, he really sums up the notion that the key to success is being able to embrace failure.  Now I don’t mean embrace in the sense that you have to try and fail so you can be super happy that you have achieved failure, I mean embrace as in asking yourself, “OK, I did not achieve what I wanted today, what could I have done to make today go differently?”  If we cannot own our failures, losses. bad parenting moments, ineffective corporate talks, bad runs, missed basketball, soccer, lacrosse shots, bad pitches, short tempers, bad attitudes, etc, then how do we move beyond them and get better?  In fact, I think the key to being successful lies in personal ownership of our own losses and failures.  I hear kids all the time come off the court or field telling their parents that their team lost due to bad refereeing, bad umpire calls, cheating from the other team, etc., and most of the time I hear parents agreeing with them. OK, I know many times the refereeing is really bad, and most of the baseball umpires are kids and are still learning too, and yes, sometimes the other team plays dirty and gets away with it, but the only thing we can control is how we play the game, not what is happening elsewhere on the court or field.
One of the best tools I learned during my Executive Coaching career at Ernst and Young was asking my clients, “what could you have done differently to elicit a different outcome?”  Once I quit E&Y to stay home with my kids, I would apply that tool to my parenting skills. I remember vividly being in the pediatrician’s office one afternoon with my two oldest who were probably 3 and 18 months at the time, I had been running late so instead of getting my stroller out and strapping my active 18 month old boy in, I carried him. We got to the waiting room and what was generally a 5 minute wait turned into a 20 minute wait while my son jumped and climbed all over the waiting room. I started to stress over his active behavior, all the germs he was picking up, his not listening, etc.  As I was getting more stressed, my parenting become more desperate and ineffective.  Once the appointment was over, I sat for a moment in my car and acknowledged just how ineffective that approach had been with 2 kids less than 2 years apart.  I immediately started thinking of ways that I could have better prepared, how I could have better handled the situation, etc.  I can honestly say we never had another visit like that one!
I now ask myself that same question, “what could you have done differently to elicit the outcome you wish you had gotten?” to my classes, still with my parenting (and believe me when I say the stakes are much greater when your kids are teens), my consulting work, my personal training clients, my interactions with others, etc.  We have to embrace and own our failures in order to reorganize for success.
The amazing Todd Durkin sent out a blog a couple of weeks ago outlining an exercise he does every Sunday (apparently 1 of 18 things he does on Sunday to get his mind right for the upcoming week)  which I have been trying to adapt to my own Sunday routine.  He calls the exercise his W.L.A.G.’s.  WLAGs stands for:
Wins” of the past week. 
Losses” of the past week. 
Aha” moments from the past week. 
Goals” of the upcoming week.

Wins and losses from the past week allow him to pause and reflect for a few minutes on what he accomplished or didn’t accomplish. It puts him in a more reflective and present state of mind versus always just thinking “what’s next?”

Ahas” simply allow him to go a step deeper and think about any/all moments from the previous week that made him stop in his tracks or made him catch his breath.
And finally, he writes out his GOALS for the upcoming week. “Goals” are simply what he WILL accomplish in the next 7 days. While he typically puts down 15-20 things on that “To Do” list for the week, he narrows it to a BIG 5 for the week. These are the 5 things that MUST get done this week come hell or high water.
I hope you can take something from this blog that you might be able to apply to your own weekly routine the will help bring about greater successes in your week. Try asking yourself, “what could I have done differently?” or maybe sit down this afternoon and write down your WLAGs – even share them with a friend or loved one. And of course, if you want to make the most of your workout time, don’t forget to let your teacher or trainer know what you are looking to get out of that hour.  Also, if you feel something is ineffective, don’t hesitate to let your teacher or trainer know that what they were doing did not work for you. I always welcome your feedback and I am pretty sure other teachers and trainers do, too.