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In a Hole

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I don’t always make the right decisions, so my life has been a continuing series of failures. I have a grandson, Braden, who is in his middle teens. He likes sports and is a burgeoning athlete. The truth is he likes all sports and therefore wants to try all of them. This year, he went out for baseball. He’d never played baseball, played catch in the backyard, or swung a bat. We recently had a conversation about how he was doing in this new endeavor. It was a straightforward and honest dialogue in which he admitted he wasn’t very good and provided a list of the times he had failed. It was not his sincerity that impressed me. It was his attitude. He was excited about it. The talk moved on to what it means to be good at something and the measure of goodness. We agreed that a batting average was a good metric. A 300-batting average is considered respectable. As we unpacked what that meant to reality, it was a blinding flash of the obvious. The respectable batter only hits the ball three times for every ten times at bat. Seven times, the batter fails miserably.

And there it was. The definition of success is being able and willing enough to fail consistently. The power to act without fear of failure is critical because everyone who is stuck in past failure and ruminates on the consequences of failing seldom tries new things. They inherently make themselves more fragile because they do not try new things. My father often offered the popular proverb: "If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging." It is a powerful statement emphasizing the importance of preventing a bad situation from worsening. This saying symbolizes that when you find yourself in a difficult situation or make a mistake, it is best to stop and reassess the situation instead of continuing to make things worse. Essentially, this means that if you are already in trouble, adding more trouble to the mix will only make things worse. Instead, it is advisable to take a step back, evaluate the situation, and devise a plan to solve the problem.

We have observed the model of leadership believing that failure is bad. They also believe that learning from it is pretty straightforward. They ask people to reflect on what they did wrong and exhort them to avoid similar mistakes in the future. They assign a team to review and write a report on what happened and then distribute it throughout the group. These widely held beliefs are misguided. Effective leadership has learned to plan to fail strategically. They give themselves the authority to make and learn from the wrong decision. The key is to learn from mistakes and try not to repeat them. Exceptional individuals and groups go beyond detecting and analyzing failures. The new model tries to generate intelligent failures for the express purpose of learning and innovating. My mother-in-law would say, “Make it the best mistake you can.

By the way, my grandson got his first hit in yesterday’s game.

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