Failure isn’t failing

What happens when we fail? This is a question that came up a lot for me a couple of weeks ago as I sat in on my first leadership conference experience at my new company. The chair I sat in hadn’t been reserved for me, but the spot opened up out of an eagerness on my part to be involved in broader activities at lululemon. I reached out to the conference planning committee (putting my past life as a conference planner to good use) and offered to help with anything, small or large, that they had coming up in anticipation for the conference.

All the heavy lifting was done… and they had done a damn good job at that. They planned the agenda, sent out the invitations, booked the speakers, reserved the venue, and ordered the catering. The conference had all the perfect elements to result in a huge success, but there was still a spot for me. I was thrilled to help make drink cards (new-found love for pixler by the way), order copies, and organize transportation of supplies to the conference venue. After completing all the to do’s for the committee, I thought my part was done, but they asked me to continue helping and come to the full two and a half days of the conference to coordinate the presentations. “Easy peasy,” I thought… I’ve done this before and am happy to be involved at any level,  but I could not have dreamed up what treats were in store. From inspirational stories to real deal leadership skill building, I learned that this company walks the talk… and does it in style!

A co-worker and friend, Lindsay and I, decked out for the futuristic closing party (apparently people wear blonde bob wigs in the future)

Being at the conference didn’t feel much like work. It felt more like the treat that I allow myself to have once a day. It seemed to be the treasure I take as a reward for doing something good. Working on my personal growth after doing a good job felt similar to treating myself to dessert after a good workout at the gym. But in any case, the personal growth from the conference was nothing short of brain indulgence.

How can it feel like work with a fun photo graffiti wall and these babes?

So what does failure have to do with any of this?  Failure is the elephant in the room we choose to ignore most of the time, but without failure, we would never learn how to succeed. In one of the conference sessions, we were asked to write out our failures and pin them to the “Failure Board”. Posting my failures up on the wall for everyone to see (even the CEO) was daunting,  scary, and seemingly shameful, but celebrating failure takes it into a new light. Although this may seem like torture, the action of sharing our failures was in a sense celebrating them. When we celebrate failure, we open ourselves up to vulnerability – and it is so liberating! The vulnerability of letting others see us for who we are, the vulnerability of saying, “I’m not perfect either.” If you haven’t already, I would highly recommend watching Brene Brown’s talks on vulnerability and shame on Ted Talks. Do it now! and if you’ve already watched it, watch it again!

So here it is, posted for the world (literally) to see… I have failed at:

–       Sharing my pain, letting others hold me up

–       Over performing under stress (again, failing to rely on others)

This matters because it impacts the people around me. My hubs, my co-workers, my family and friends. I fell (a long long time ago) into playing a role of strength. Strong when things get tough, strong when Joe got paralyzed, strong when family members pass away, strong for friends going through tough times, and strong and reliable in a work environment when shit hits the fan. I realize now that this is my strength, but in my strength also lies failure of letting others take the reins. People around me need to be there for me just as much as I need to be there for them. Letting go of the reins is something I have to work on.

The move to Australia sparked a tremendous change in our lives. It removed us from our comforts, physically separated us from our loved ones, and opened up a whole can of life I never knew existed. In recognizing my failures, I am committed to opening myself up for vulnerability, sharing my failures, and not showing only the glowy amazingness that Australia is offering us. I am committed to be real and show the real feelings and experiences moving so far away offers, both the good and the bad. But most of all, I’m committed to working towards creating a life I love. I’m happy to be well on my way!

So, what happens when we fail? We learn how to succeed! We learn about what we truly love.