Creating a new career, a fresh professional persona does not quite lend itself to authenticity. The desire to craft an image of who we are that can be sold, advertised and hyped is little at odds with a policy of accepting your humanity. It seems wise to hide your flaws and lack of knowledge, to sell an image of success — but, I am going to give failure a go.
The illusion of answers
Over the last few months I have had my foundations challenged and shaken, and in many cases completely rearranged. I’ve built a career on having answers. I was obsessed with computers and programming from the moment I first knew of them. By high school I thought I had so many answers I could teach my class. 30 years and a few companies later I still thought that I could make a difference by having the answers. Then, over the course of a few months everything got turned upside down.
A perfect storm of different events, personal, professional and more, pushed me to the edge. As I went over that edge I found myself in a place of incredible privilege — I had a support network of wise people who asked me the right questions, challenged my assumptions and gave me a new way of looking at, and dealing with, the situation. I was transformed by questions, and my love of answers was forever tarnished.
I thought I knew
Theory is so easy. I’d even won a speech competition with a talk about the importance of flaws. Yet, my own judgement of myself would not let me really walk the talk. Actually giving yourself permission to live a life of failure and weakness is very hard.
Yes yes, failure and weakness are only what we choose to see, I’m only half using the words here for dramatic impact. But, only half. We are so indoctrinated to say “there is no failure, just learning” that desperately avoid honouring the failing as the thing we learn from. We just say the mantra and get on with not being honest about where we are.
The deep learning we can gain from failure comes from accepting the failure, from being present in our weaknesses and then getting up again. Not from brushing things under the carpet.