Category Archives: Attitude

When is failing, failure?

This is a question I’ve had the opportunity to consider in my work role that I commenced earlier this year. A core component is determining the presence of the scientific method in assessing complex research and development projects.

In science, I’ve learned failing is a lesson, a pathway to a revised experiment. In life, failing is more often seen as being unsuccessful. The reality is, though, that failing only becomes failure when we cease trying.

Muhammad Ali was a great boxer, deemed by many to be ‘The Greatest’ of the 20th century, perhaps all-time. As a boxer, he was knocked-down by opponents. How many world titles did he win from the canvas? He won world titles not by staying down, but by rising up and continuing to fight. Boxing analogies are well-used I know, but that’s because they reflect what many of us do not do. When we’re struck down, floored by an unseen challenge, we spend too much time working out how and why when we should be readying ourselves for the next round.

Are we using failing as an opportunity to learn and go again, or we allowing it to nudge us closer to failure?

This is where we need to adopt the view of science, not the world. We need to measure our efforts, our plans, by the systematic progression of work we’re employing, not by the immediate outcome.

Adopting the scientific method into our own world means that we begin with the idea, the dream, the goal. Around this we develop a framework of what we think is required – the skills, the knowledge, the relationships, the courage. This provides the platform for our ‘experiment’ where we infuse the idea with effort, where we give it a go.

At this point, the immediate outcome may not be the final result. If our effort delivers the outcome we desired, fantastic – move onto the next idea! If the outcome is not what we desired, fantastic – move back to the framework we created and alter, refine and expand. If the result remains the same after several iterations of the framework, we may even need to go back to the original idea to determine if this is valid for us at this point in time.

The famous quote attributed to the inventor of the lightbulb, Thomas Edison, epitomises the scientific method ‘I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.’

Failing only becomes failure when we cease trying.


Just do something!

My life has been characterised by potential. Mostly unrealised potential. This has caused me significant frustration, equating this to a lack of value in myself, thinking that I have let other’s down. Thankfully I am now aware of this and have been working upon this not-so-desirable aspect of myself. The key I hold onto are three words my wife once said to me “…just do something!”.

The context was me expressing how I thought I had let down my wife and my family. It was a major league pity party. After my emotional release, I was surprised by my wife’s response “I really don’t care what you do, just do something!!”.


This was not the 5 step plan that would have removed all responsibility from my shoulders. This was not the “my poor darling” join in the pity-party approach. This was tough love. This was my wife undeniably backing me whilst challenging me to step up and be the difference I so sorely wanted to be.

I’m not there yet. I sometimes feel old and that I’ve missed something somewhere. But I also know that this potential within me will continue to be realised and progressively ‘topped up’. My desire to empower, enable and equip others has taken many forms over the years and I know I have been gifted an ability to help others realise their vision. I can practically create a sense of order around a dream that otherwise seemed chaotic.

Stepping into potential begins with just that, a step. Even if we’re not confident we’re stepping in the right direction, at least we’re moving! Let’s start by just doing SOMETHING!


What’s behind the curtain?

Arising somewhat earlier than I anticipated on my first day of a family holiday, I elected to go in search of the breakfast essentials, of which coffee was at the top of the list. Several options presented, most of which seemed to lack the quality I was seeking. After all, coffee is not just coffee!

The establishments I choose to bypass all appeared as the standard cafe with a standard coffee and what I assumed would be standard coffee-making skills. If everything else was standard, then why would I expect anything but… standard?

Having secured freshly baked bread and the local newspaper, coffee was now the priority. Coffee Dominion appeared, a rather nondescript building externally with its entrance unusually covered by a curtain. Curiosity drove me to peek behind the curtain, revealing a coffee treasure without compare locally. Comfy couches, a huge selection of fresh beans and a team of incredibly welcoming baristas. I had found coffee!

Sometimes the best things can be hidden. Not immediately obvious and maybe even requiring a search.

We can be rewarded with pleasure, with enlargement of our world, by simply deciding to have a look behind the curtain.


I’ll have what she’s having!

In Meg Ryan’s famous (infamous maybe?) orgasm scene from the classic 80’s film ‘When Harry Met Sally’ we have a fellow diner responding with ‘I’ll have what she’s having!’. Obviously this is a bit of fun but the reality for many of us is that we do often want others have!

The sting in the tale of comparison is that what is best for us, is rarely what others have. Ouch!

An ironic thing that I’ve learned over the years is people for whom we may feel sorry when we view what they physically or financially ‘lack’ may actually feel sorry for us when they see what we ‘have’! This ‘lack’ and ‘have’ is really about what we value.

It’s simpler to assess our impact or influence by what we have – our job, where our kids go to school, where we live, the car we drive, how we spend our holidays. This is an easy-to-measure yardstick against which we can hold ourselves and others.

Much harder to measure is who we are. There is no obvious metric. This includes our genuine happiness, our level of contentedness even in the midst of physical lack, our mindset. These are the things which can seem ethereal but are the core from which our expectations, attitudes and behaviours are driven.

It’s also much more difficult to compare… and that’s partially the point. Focusing more upon our own emotional and spiritual health enables us to more effectively empower and support others. Impact and influence starts with ourselves.

Do you really want what she’s having?

Let Hope Rise.

Resumé or Eulogy?

Four Weddings and a Funeral makes for a great movie title. Five funerals in three years – not so much.

This is my reality with my folks and several of my uncles / aunts passing away in recent years. Hearing family members and lifelong friends share anecdotes at these final farewells opens a doorway to understanding these people. Not just what they did or what they achieved, but more about who they were.

In his book, The Road to Character, David Brooks talks about ‘resumé virtues’ and ‘eulogy virtues’. The challenge being are we focused on building our life around what looks good externally or what adds substance to our character? The things we do and the things we achieve, whilst important, are more about how others size us up – do we measure up to their expectations, are we suited for a role. Who we are identifies what is important to us – what drives us, what defines us.

This is character. These are the traits that surpass our ‘resumé virtues’. This is also our opportunity for greatest influence and lasting legacy. The aspects of who we are for which we will be remembered, and often by those who we did not even realise we were influencing.

Our role, our job, our achievements are important but have a shelf-life.

Our values, our beliefs are our core that flavours everyone around us.

What are you building today – your resumé self or your eulogy self?

Let Hope Rise.

What’s your colour?

I had a friend some years back who claimed he could see your “aura”.  Apparently, we each emit an aura, a subtle luminous radiation around our bodies. This aura can change colour based on our emotional state.

Now I don’t know much about auras, but what if our moods could be represented by colour? What colour would you be?

In the midst of conversation, would our emotional colour be supported by our words and deeds? Would what we’re saying actually be reflected by what we’re thinking and feeling?

I’m not encouraging each of us to share everything that we’re thinking – appropriate self-disclosure is an important skill! What I’m asking each of us to consider is are we genuine in our interactions? What is our motivation behind the relationship?

Do we tolerate behaviours because that person may afford us some advantage? Do we not praise and encourage as we’re afraid of giving the other person a ‘big head’?

If our moods could indeed be represented by colour and we’re visible to those around us, would we change what we’re saying, what we’re doing, or what we’re thinking?

What would your colour say about you?

Let Hope Rise

Image credit: potowizard / 123RF Stock Photo