Category Archives: failure

What Will You Risk For The First Time This Week?

I thought I was good at it.

Taking risks, I mean. I’ve certainly faced some fears (see my This Is Me page) and taking risks? Not a problem. Except this week…

The fear of an event is nearly always worse than the actuality, so I’ve read. I believe it’s true but I have to force myself to act on it sometimes.

I remember the waterfall in the Lake District.

We'll have to turn back

The roar of the torrent, the spray everywhere, the sheer height. I was overawed by it but somehow we had to cross over to the other side or else turn back.  I stood and stared, fear fluttering in my chest. 

As I stood there getting more and more scared, my attention was caught by a child in a red jacket, and his dog. He was running along, in front of his dad, clambering up the grassy path towards me, heading for the edge of the water fall. Then he disappeared from view and I assumed the path cotinued through the gorse bushes at the side.

I was still wondering whether we should turn back and take a different track, when there he was, on the other side of the waterfall, his red coat zig-zagging away and his dog following.

His dad was close by where I stood.

‘He’s crossed over! How on earth has he done it? Surely it’s too risky!’

He smiled.

‘We often come this way. If you go round the corner you’ll see the stepping stones! They’re slippery but it’s OK to cross if you take care!’

This week I’m taking a ‘risk’ with my blog.

I’ve decided to update this site and move on to the next stage of blogging.

Here’s how it’s going so far:

  • I decided I want to make the change.

Making the decision to make any change is often the easiest part. It’s only in your mind at this stage. No risk yet.

Writing it down can make it more real, so long as you don’t tell anyone, then you can still ‘turn round and go back’.

I did exactly this: I wrote down my plans to up-grade, but kept it to myself.

  • You seek support

If you’re scared to take the risk by yourself, look for someone to guide you.

Want to change career? Travel alone? Learn to ski? Write a novel? Talk to those who’ve’ been there, done it and got the t-shirt.’  I love this Danish Proverb: ‘He knows the water best who has waded in it.’

I did exactly this: One of my blogging friends, Arvind Devalia has indeed ‘been there, done it…’ and he is a consultant in this area. He will guide me through the whole process and I need have no fear.

  • What if?

Yes! I said it.

What if… I can’t manage the change?

OK, but what if I can, with Arvind’s expert help?

There’s always another way, just like the stepping stones that were hidden from our view that day. When we want to make a change or take a risk, it seems scary at first. But once you’ve thought it through, decided, and found support you’ll be so glad you did.

And, by the way, the view from the other side of the waterfall was stunning…

‘Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase. Just take the first step.’

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Now it’s your turn.

What will you risk for the first time, this week ?

Header image by cursedthing, post image by 

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I Have Something To Confess, How About You?

I hate cooking!

I sat down in my steaming hot kitchen, put my head in my hands and cried.

My face was flaming, there was ‘stuff’ on every work surface, recipe books were smeared with flour, the oven was working away, dishes were piled up, dirty pans that won’t go in the dish washer waited,  and I was in despair.

We were giving a ‘dinner party’ for  six guests (I know, not exactly a crowd) and I’d been running round in circles since early morning. I thought I’d been looking forward to it. I’d written my lists, done the shopping, even  laid the table. But the fact remained – I was in tears.

Apparently I’m not alone.  A recent press survey reported that many of us find the whole dinner party thing more stressful than seeing the bank manager or commuting to work!

So what’s the problem?

Here’s my Positive Spin.

  • I don’t like being ‘judged’.

There are so many cookery shows on TV and it looks so easy! They’re run by real chefs, all with years of training and experience,  owning  successful restaurants. Of course their meals are amazing. That’s what their diners expect! Of course I can’t match their expertise. But somehow, when I have friends around for dinner, because I’m not a natural cook, I feel judged.

  • I don’t want to ‘fail’.

I feel embarrassed if my roast potatoes aren’t perfect, my sauce has lumps (surely not!) or the steaks are over/undercooked. I worry that my menu won’t live up to expectations.

  • I feel out of my depth.

At the last dinner party I went to there were three desserts.  I just can’t compete!  What will they say if I only produce one! I don’t know how to make filo pastry by hand, unlike my talented friend. I’ve not mastered the art of home-made ice cream or perfect cheesecake.

And so it goes on.

So! What can I do about it?

  • I need to get ‘real’.

Sharing a meal is a way to get together and enjoy one another’s company. If cooking for a dinner party puts me out of my depth then I need to be very brave and say, ‘ We’d love to see you for dinner. I’m not too confident about cooking so we’d like to take you out instead.’

It doesn’t have to cost a fortune, there are plenty of great pubs in the UK that serve moderately priced meals and even more choices in the US.

  • I can cheat!

There’s an amazing array of food out there, ready cooked. Indian food is especially plentiful and not expensive. I’ve found fantastic savoury pies, casseroles and pasta dishes on sale in some butchers’ shops, along with fruit pies, crumbles and mousse. Sometimes I buy the main course but make the dessert. Or I make a really easy but tasty and interesting starter.

I always tell my friends that I cheated and they don’t turn a hair. At least, not so far as I can tell. It’s their company that’s the most important part of the evening.

  • I must live in the real world.

Everyone has skills. Everyone. Not everyone is an expert cook, home decorator,  dress-maker…. whatever. It’s time  to stop stressing about it and simply confess that I don’t enjoy trying to cook restaurant style food for guests. It’s silly to pretend otherwise.

There! That feels better…

How about you?

Is there anything you need to confess? Go on, you know you want to…

You’ll feel so much better if you do!

Header image by cursedthing, post pic by lisaclarke, on Flickr.

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Found! The Secret Sign of Success

I tried hard, mum...

It was Mother’s Day.

But I was not happy.

I was trying to make a cake for my mum.  Her favourite Victoria Sponge.

What was the problem?

I’d made Victoria sponges loads of times before, to great applause from the family. 

But this was different. I had to succeed. I wanted her to say: ‘It’s lovely! Better than I could do! Delicious!’

My first two attempts were cooling off in the bin and with much huffing and puffing I got busy mixing up the third, and yes, forty minutes later…  the third cake was fine and mum was pleased.

Years later, and a mum myself, I know that my success that day was not about anything other than this:

I wanted to show mum that she was special.

It wasn’t about a cake. It was about mum knowing I cared.

And me smiling inside.

This post was inspired by Leo’s words about success, on Zen Habits.

He made me stop and think about –

What does success mean to me?  

How do I know when I’ve succeeded?

And I’m asking you the same questions.

For me, I know I’ve succeeded when I’m Smiling Inside.

Here are some of my Smiling Inside successes.

  1. Leaving the house for the first time after an illness.
  2. Writing a difficult blog post and feeling satisfied with it when it’s finished.
  3. Receiving a loving card from my daughter for no particular reason.
  4. Finally persuading the store to give me a refund.
  5. Seeing a plant bloom when I thought it had died.
  6. Hearing my cat come through the cat flap after she’d been out ‘on the tiles’ for 12 hours and I’d been calling and calling…
  7. Working out how to upload photos to this site.
  8. Having my work validated by my readers.
  9. Seeing a turtle amongst the coral when I’m scared of deep water.

For me, my successes and Smiling Inside are invisible to everyone else.

They are my secrets, and every time I recall how I felt about each success, a warm, invisible smile begins.

What does success mean to you?

Is it an outward thing? Like a trophy or an award?

Or does it stay inside?

Header image by cursed thing, post image by Aleasy, both on Flickr.

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Ooops! I Said ‘Yes’ But I Wish I’d Said ‘No’! (And What To Do About It…)

Why did I say 'yes'???

 This post is for Christine.

You put down the phone.

Your heart sinks.

You’ve got butterflies…

If only you’d been brave and said ‘No’.

Oh well… that’s it. Nothing more to be done.

Stop right there!

All is not lost.

You have the right to change your mind!

I’ll pause while you read that again….

You know why you did it:

  • You’d felt guilty if you said ‘no’
  • You didn’t want an argument
  • It was easier
  • You always do…

Why do you want to change your mind?

Here’s what to do about it.

  • Say what you want.

‘Sarah/mum/Simon… I need to cancel the arrangement we made to go to the cinema/come to you for Christmas/go on holiday with you/come to you for the week-end.’

  • Don’t apologise or grovel, simply give the real reasons.

I realise I’m over committed/under a lot of pressure at the moment.’

‘We want to have a quiet Christmas this year but would love to see you in the New Year/ in February/ on your birthday’  – whatever you actually want to do.

  • Be clear and honest

You must say what you want, don’t apologise,On reflection/now I’ve had time to think about it /I realise that it doesn’t work for me/us at the moment. (Leaving the door open if that’s what you want to do.)

  • Listen to what they say.

Give them a chance to respond and try to see it from their shoes. But don’t be persuaded to give in. Perhaps you can concede that you understand it’s a nuisance/inconvenient for them, but remember, you have every right to change your mind.

 You could say something along these lines: ‘I understand that this is a nuisance but it’s what I want to do.’

 What will happen ?

  • They’ll be upset
  • They’ll be surprised but not upset
  • They’ll understand and appreciate your situation and your honesty

If you feel yourself begin to waver, simply remember that

you have the right to change your mind.

Result?

  • Once you’ve had the conversation, you’ll know it was the right thing to do because you’ll feel relieved
  • You’ll feel so much more confident about saying ‘no’ in the future.
  • You’ll smile all day!

Are you going to change your mind about something?

What do you wish you’d said ‘no’ to?

Do share, in the comments, how you dealt with it… we’d all like some help with this!

An excellent book on this subject: ‘Assertiveness’ by Claire Walmsly.  BBC books.

Header image courtesy of cursedthing and post image by Nicoli Barea, on Flickr.

 

    

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How Failure Can Turn You Into A Happy Bunny (Part 3)

My stomach churns.  

I hardly dare look.  

She hands me the pages.  

Covered with red ink.  

‘It’s good so far’, she says. ‘But may I make a few suggestions?’  

No… it wasn’t my Maths homework. This happened about two weeks ago. It was the first draft of my book, edited by a professional editor.  

‘I’d like you to do some more research. It’ll add a lot to the book, but…. it’s your work, you must decide what’s best.’  

I was not a happy bunny.  

It felt exactly the same as having my Maths homework returned with loads of corrections to do.  

Let’s face it – my pride was hurt.  

Why wasn’t it OK as it was?  

Why did I have to do more research?  

Why wasn’t it a masterpiece already?  

   

Picture the scene two weeks later.  

I’d researched for hours on the net, added several thousand words, re-arranged some of the chapters, changed some titles and felt quietly confident with the result. In short –  

I was a happy bunny.  

I knew she was right...

 

No-one likes to be corrected. Not really.  

Especially as an adult.  

It’s hard to admit when we haven’t got it quite right and need to do more work.  

But failing to write the perfect ‘first draft’ of my book taught me a lesson.  

It also illustrated the last two of my…  

6 Reasons That Failure Is Good For You.  

5.   ‘Failure’ shows you how you can, and should, improve.  

      Just when you think you’ve got it right, perhaps you haven’t.  Perhaps you ‘could do better’.  

6.   Failure shows you that nothing achieved easily brings satisfaction.  

I shall be so proud when I truly have finished and my editor tells me it’s ready for publication.  

    

Over to you!  

  • What have you worked extra hard on and finally completed with pride?
  • What have you failed at but secretly known you should have done more to succeed?
  • What has failure, in any sense, taught you?

All thoughts in the comments please!  

   

Header image by abyreed on Flickr.  

Rabbit photo by hans s on Flickr.  

   

 

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Hey! Failure’s OK! (Part 2)

   

from Schlusselbein2007

 

‘I can’t do it!’  

‘I’ll never be able to.’  

‘I’m rubbish at writing.’  

Steven threw down his pencil.  

I could see how red his face was.  

Tears weren’t far away.  

Many years and no doubt many tears later I met his mum in a local restaurant.  

‘It’s so good to see you again!’ she beamed.  

I listened while she told me with great pride, that Steven had just passed his law degree. A ‘2.1’.  A huge achievement for a dyslexic student.  

I learnt a lesson that day, a lesson about failure.  

   

Last week I wrote about my first two reasons why Failure is Good For You.  

Here are the next two:  

   

Failure is good for you because:  

3.   It makes you stronger.  

Steven had a very hard time at school.  Every step along the way was a struggle. Until he discovered the truth that his dyslexia was not his fault. He simply needed to be taught in the way that he could learn.  As soon as he  believed in himself and his ability things began to go his way. His self-esteem grew. It was a slow process, but he got there. He was determined to succeed, he believed he could, and he did.  

4.   Failure opens your eyes to the real world.  

It seems to be the fashion in some of  our schools here in the UK, not to allow a child to ‘fail’ at the annual school sports day.  

There must be no winners or losers, just ‘participants’.  

How can that be right?  

As the child grows he will face many situations in which he has to compete. That’s real life. Surely it’s good to experience not coming first while still young and to learn that,  

Hey! Failure’s OK!   

Why do we want to protect our children from the real world?  

We do them no favours.  

They need to grow stronger and a little failure from time to time will help them, in my view.  

   

So… over to you:  

  • Has failure made you stronger in any way?
  • Has failure opened your eyes to anything in the real world?

Do add your comments… you know what to do… 

Header image by abbyreed, on Flickr

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6 Reasons Failure Is Good For You (Part One)

I’m failing spectacularly at the moment. 

But I’m learning loads. 

I’m writing a book.  

And I’ve learnt so much along the way. 

I’ve failed at each stage of working  on the book, but guess what? 

I’ve found 6 Positive Spins in the process!  

6 Reasons Why Failure Is Good For You. 

You won’t want to read them all at once so I’ll just tell you about two today. 

More next week. 

from Lazurite on Flickr

 

  Failure Is Good For You Because: 

1.   …failure takes you down new paths. 

I never intended to write my book. I wrote an article for the paper and in my research I came across an ancient (150 years old) school log book. I sent in my prized article but they didn’t print it… 

I moaned and groaned and spluttered into my cold coffee but there it was. 

Rejected.  

Failed.  

When I picked myself up and dusted myself down, something made me take another look at the old log book. And a germ of an idea for a whole new writing project was born… 

If my article had been accepted, I would never have come up with the new project.  

There’s always a new path to take. When you come across an obstacle, a road block, a disappointment, look for another path, another way, another solution. It’s there, right under your nose… 

2.   …failure stops you being arrogant. 

I was busy, busy, busy on my book. I’d spent many days deciphering the faded copperplate writing, typing it into a Word document. I was so tired. 

And then it happened. 

It was the end of a dark, winter’s day and I was just about to switch off my laptop when… I lost all the work of the day. 

ALL OF IT! 

Failed. 

Again. 

When I eventually calmed down, as you do, I was mortified. because: 

I knew it was all down to me. 

My mistake. My arrogance. My failure. 

Sleep came to my rescue. It healed my hurt pride. I woke next day, determined to catch up. 

And I re-set the auto save… 

  

Failure happens for a reason. 

And it’s usually your own fault. 

Failed the exam? 

Why? 

Not enough revision? 

Too many late nights? 

Thought you could ‘wing it’? 

No… you weren’t ready. You hadn’t done the work. You were arrogant. 

In my view, most of my failures have been down to me. My fault. No-one else to blame. 

How do you view your ‘failures’? 

Have you learnt from them? 

Has failure been good for you? 

  

 

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