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Monthly Archives: January 2014

The Folly of Fearing Failure

14-01-28 The Folly of Fearing FailureUn-Game Principle: Belief creates the fact. Change your mind; change your life.

“There’s no such thing as failure.” There. I said it, and lots of people will vehemently disagree and now put me into the not-credible bin.

Well, I’m happy to say and mean it: “Of course failure exists.” Perhaps now you suggest therapy to me because I must have lost my grip on reality altogether. Two diametrically opposed assertions surely could not both be true simultaneously.

Are you sure? Doesn’t it depend on who is talking and what they’re looking at that has them make their statement about failure? Someone who is sure failure exists and should be feared is looking at something different than someone who says “There’s no such thing as failure” and makes a case for it.

That’s what we do, don’t we? We have a conclusion and then we do whatever we can to build a case for it. The desire to make ourselves right is very strong.

Let’s take an example. Maria went through college majoring in engineering. Not six months into her first job she knew it wasn’t what she wanted and quit her job and became an activist working on behalf of mitigating climate change. It’s easy to listen to parents, professors, friends who see this as a gigantic mistake and having wasted time, money, and other resources.

But Maria sees it differently. She sees what the Chinese see in the character they have for the words ‘Crisis’ and ‘Opportunity’. It happens to be the same character for both! She’s finely attuned to seeing everything in her life as an opportunity, including that which may be experienced as crisis. Maria sees an opportunity for learning and growing. She wonders why everyone is so upset.

Maria is confident that all of what she’s learned will serve her in some way on her life journey. And it has and it does. She lives in a community she loves and is masterful at enrolling and empowering others to join the work of raising consciousness and committed action to mitigate the effects of climate change.  She supports a modest life style, but the twinkle in her eye and the radiance of her smile tell of sufficiency. She reserves the right to define success her way.

Success is doing what you said you’d do, with clarity, focus, and without struggle.

Maria had majored in engineering, her genuine longings deeply hidden in a fog. No clarity there. She did it because she was good in math and important people gently pointed her in that direction. She had focus. She graduated with honors, but her focus wasn’t on demonstrating her deep longing. And so she struggled. Struggle is the opposite of ease (You can work hard with ease, but you can’t work with ease and struggle). She instinctively knew what she was yet to claim out loud: “It’s not sustainable to be who you are not.” And she acted on her intuition.

The lesson Maria learned (you may have learned a different lesson; our lessons are uniquely personal) was that there’s no such thing as failure. YOU decide what success and failure are. As do other people. They may have their own definition. As is their right. “I’m a failure” is not a fact. It’s merely how I interpret whatever happened. Usually it’s an affirmation of a conclusion made long ago and submerged in the depths of the unconscious. Unfortunately, I’m unclear and I believe it to be a fact the moment I hear myself thinking it!

The question we might ask is “Which interpretation is most empowering? I failed? I’m a failure? Failure is impossible?”

In fact, failure is impossible if we live by a powerful conclusion “Failure is impossible.” Can you make a case for that? Of course, you can. Henry Ford wasn’t kidding when he said “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” Human beings have a great hankering to make ourselves right. Why not live into a conclusion that is beautiful for our life?

There is no such thing as failure if you are exquisitely attuned to looking for what there is to learn in any given situation, including, yes, the really awful ones. The reason that’s  so awesome is that with each ‘ah ha’remember, you’re learning about the most fascinating subject on the planet, YOU!…you become stronger, more resilient, flexible, creative, courageous. And the list of empowering qualities goes on and on.  Would that be a good enough reason to make a case for “There’s no such thing as failure?”

You might say “Yes,” but how do you change your mind when all your life you’ve been making a case for “There is such a thing as failure.” Or, “I’m a failure.” Or, “It’s impossible not to fail.”

Going back to Henry Ford’s quote provides a simple and profound answer, which most of us, because we think it couldn’t be as simple as that, just flat out don’t believe (in which case…read the Ford quote again!).smiley-face1

We mistakenly believe that we arrive at our conclusions through rational thought based on evidence we’ve observed. That is patently false no matter how much we assert it’s true. We make many decisions not based on reason but emotion, which then, in turn, we are obliged to justify with reason! We hate to be wrong. That said, it becomes clear that our mind is extremely unreliable! It’s a bad neighborhood into which we ought not go alone!

What’s more reliable is to accept that we make a conclusion, usually unconsciously (no clarity there!), and then we gather evidence to support that conclusion. That’s what Ford is saying. If you believe it, you will create it.

Knowing this creates something absolutely extraordinary. It puts you, me, and everyone who knows it at choice. We can choose a conclusion we like better and simply move it to our consciousness. We can use it and then ask “What would it look like if I demonstrated that conclusion in action?” What would it look like in action, if I lived “Failure is a great option for making an empowering  choice?”  Who knows what you would come up with? You might even come to agree it’s a folly to fear failure. There’s no such thing as failure, only lessons to be learned.”

What’s a lesson you learned out of what you once judged a failure?

Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, Coach and author of The Un-Game , Four-Play to Business as Unusual, a show, not tell tool for coaches, managers, and “will do” teams, works with organizations and individuals to empower them to move their lives from a 7 to 10 at work, home, and play.  For her FREE report, “Reap the Harvest of a Quiet Mind:  Empower Self, Empower Others”, or “Management Training for Business as Unusual”, visit:  http://www.yourleadersedge.com, or connect with Ingrid at:  www.Twitter.com/ingrid_martine and www.facebook.com/coachmartine. 

Conversation for Action for a Happier, More Productive 2014

Un-Game Principle: Success is doing what you said you’d do with clarity, focus, and without struggle.

14-01-14 Conversation for Action for a happier 2014To produce a desired result, be it in business or in our personal affairs, we have to be competent in what might be called ‘a conversation for action.’ How most of us have learned to produce action is through trial and error and learning from what seems to work and what doesn’t. That’s good. AND, would it be all right with you if you could be more strategic (No one said manipulative!) about conversations that result in action? Would it be all right with you if you could produce desired results with greater clarity, focus, and ease?

There are verbal tools in language we need to understand, put into practice, and learn from. We’re going to talk about a verbal tool we can’t do without if we consciously engage in a conversation for action. We’re going to talk about PROMISES.

Notice your visceral reaction even as you read the word PROMISE. Does your stomach tighten? Do your hands sweat? Does your heart beat faster? You may have many reactions, but neutrality is often not among them. Even the mere mention of ‘promise’ conjures up one or more experiences (usually negative) we’ve had around promises. Someone not keeping a promise that was important to us. We not keeping one we made to others or to ourselves. Getting chewed out by a supervisor for not completing a report as promised. Oh, the sorrows of a broken promise!

Might it be worthwhile for us to expand our understanding and our practices around promises? If we long to experience the joy of a fulfilled promise more often, we will answer that question with a ‘Yes,’ even if it makes us somewhat uncomfortable.

Here’s what’s common knowledge. A promise can be kept or broken. What’s unfamiliar to most people is a third option.  It’s a distinction around a promise that good communicators intuitively know about. Dr. Fernando Flores, former Minister of Education under the Allende rule in Chile, named it. And there’s power in naming. Name it and you can claim it.

Have you ever heard about the REVOKED PROMISE?

If fulfilling a promise energizes you and the person to whom you made the promise, and breaking one deflates the energy (It does. Check it out the next time. Your body doesn’t lie.), what happens when a promise is revoked?

That depends.

Revoking a promise, first of all, is saying intentionally to the other that you won’t be able to fulfill the promise you made to them earlier. If you promised to have the report your supervisor wants on his or her desk by Tuesday at 9 am, and you revoke it on the previous Thursday, do you and your supervisor have a different experience than if you revoked the promise at 8:59 on Tuesday? Of course. The latter, while not yet literally a broken promise, doesn’t give your supervisor much of a choice to make a new plan. Revoking your promise the previous Thursday, well in advance of its fulfillment date, does. So the way a revoked promise is received definitely is affected by timing. The negative consequences are far less when you revoke a promise early.

It’s important to know that when you revoke a promise, it’s expected that you make a new one, one that (based on your best information) you expect to keep. “I thought I could get this report to you as promised, but I can’t, given X Y Z, even if I work through the night. I can get it to you by Wednesday at 9 am. Will that work?” Often there are no negative consequences at all. When you revoke a promise in plenty of time and make a new one, you gain respect for clear and honest communication. You open up the conversation for a productive dialog and negotiation for a new date of fulfillment. You don’t break the promise and then scurry for the good reasons of why you had to. It’s an opportunity to be responsible, vulnerable, and transparent. A new promise must, of course, have all the components of any other promise:

  1. You promise a specific, measurable, achievable  action and
  2. You give (or negotiate) a date for its fulfillment

Revoking promises adds a powerful distinction to your repertoire of tools in your ‘communication for action’ tool kit. Mastering it begins and ends with practice. Try it and see. Happy and productive 2014!

Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, Coach and author of The UnGame , Four-Play to Business as Unusual, a show, not tell tool for coaches, managers, and “will do” teams, works with organizations and individuals to empower them to move their lives from a 7 to 10 at work, home, and play.  For her FREE report, “Reap the Harvest of a Quiet Mind:  Empower Self, Empower Others”, or “Management Training for Business as Unusual”, visit:  http://www.yourleadersedge.com, or connect with Ingrid at:  www.Twitter.com/ingrid_martine and www.facebook.com/coachmartine.