Excellence comes through failing well.
Posted April 5, 2019
Someone pointed out to me the other day that much of what we teach children is about resilience. “Don’t give up,” “Get back up and try again,” “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” and the like. Important lessons, all, but often as adults we tend to forget these pieces of formative wisdom.
For all too long, I tried to fashion myself into a true perfectionist. In reality, all I became perfect at was becoming my harshest critic and my fiercest tormentor. No one has asked me to inflict this upon myself—I took it on alone and paid a hard price.
It took time, but eventually I began to set aside time to focus on myself and prioritize my own well-being. In the quiet of many crimson mornings before the rest of the world would stir, I seek my own calm before the noise of the waking world begins. I consciously strive to see the promise of a new day. To help others, I know I must first try to help myself. I know that I do have the power to be a force for good and positivity. I cannot guarantee what any day will bring, but I can try. Even if it is just one good thing.
I remind myself of the lyrics of the late George Michael: “Be stronger than your past, the future may still give you a chance.” To my mind, his beautiful ballad was about fortitude-the strength of mind that enables one to endure adversity, to allow yourself to hope and to be resolved.
Mistakes, hiccups, absences, let downs, stumbles, falls are all part and parcel of the makeup of life. To my mind, if you stand still and are afraid to do anything, that is the biggest mistake of all—not just for your own journey, but for the world we all inhabit. Failing to act when we are stricken with adversity is to deprive the world of our talents.
Where would we be without the pioneers of the world? Thank goodness for the researchers at UBC and all their work in developing HVPL (Heart Valve Performance) or the world famous Tel HaShomer Hospital in Tel Aviv, whose dedicated people are leading the way in Biotechnical Innovation.
They all have spotless reputations, but it’s a human fact that all those magnificent research centres with their unique discoveries in pursuit of truth and excellence are also places where failures happen every day! The difference is that, like all other high achievers, they fail well.
They use every misstep and disappointment as a building block, a step towards understanding. It would be a bit of a stretch to say that they celebrate failure, but they understand that to achieve true success one has to be able to look into the darkness, and come out the other side a better, more complete person.
Isn’t it true that often the imperfections and frailties in those whom we love draw us that much closer to them? I don’t claim to be the first to uncover this truth. In fact, it’s been part of philosophical thought for many centuries.
In the Japanese way of Zen, wabi -sabi suggests that we would do well to slow down so as to see beauty in the flawed and imperfect. By extension we also see this in the 15th century art of Kintsugi or “golden repair,” the Japanese art of mending broken porcelain. These once-shattered pieces are rebuilt with dazzling masonry of gold and other precious metals, to make the newly reconstructed piece an entirely new and unique work of art.
In observing these beautiful objects one sees the beauty of flaws acknowledged as a new part of the object’s design—a compelling and illustrative story of mistakes, patience and renewal.
A few days ago together with my team we were chatting about how thankful we were for all the good things that have happened in our business. We’ve had many missteps and had to learn some very hard lessons, but it’s because, not despite, those trials and tribulations that we’ve been able to build something worth sharing with the world.
Sometimes I piss them off, other times they make me want to chew cement, but we always come back to the middle. Our different strengths make us a stronger whole. We continually aspire to remain builders: of our enterprise, and of one another.
Very recently I had the privilege of awarding a wonderful man a partnership in my business.
He continuously motivates me with his insight, his forbearance, his honesty. In his acceptance note back to me, this is what he wrote:
While we’ve come a long way and yet still further to go, I couldn’t be more excited to wake up each and every day to build this dream together-and to continue learning how to see the raindrops in the rain and to find sunshine in the storms.
The best of us is not trying to be perfect, but to know it is okay to accept the lessons as the come to us, especially when they do not come on our terms.
I am no longer the lone hunter searching perfection. I am a seeker: of truths, of cooperation, of opportunity, and of the next step in the ladder.
I achieve everything thanks to others with different perspectives and from different walks of life. I don’t like failing, but I have been blessed to learn how to fail well. I have good people who always gather before the cliff finds me.
Be kind to yourself so that you may be kinder to others.