“I don’t make mistakes.”
This was Ron’s matter-of-fact answer to why he thought he should get the job (I was interviewing him).
“Interesting.” I replied. “You sound proud of that” I prompted.
“Absolutely – I take great pains to anticipate, plan and prepare so nothing ever goes wrong and I’m never surprised.”
I looked in his eyes – he was really pleased with himself I thought. He wants me to know his claim to fame is he doesn’t make mistakes.
While I was interviewing this guy for a client organization, I couldn’t resist poking at him and the ironclad grip he had on his life.
“Well,” I said slowly, “I guess that also means you’re afraid to ‘swing for the fence’?”
“What?” He seemed confused. The proud smile leaving his lips.
I continued: “To me, if you never make mistakes, it implies you don’t take real risks, you don’t push your self to the limit and you don’t test where your outer boundaries really are. As such, you’re a guy who plays not to lose as opposed to plays to win.”
He looked at me like I had three heads.
“Why would anyone put them selves in a position to fail?” he asked incredulously.
“To truly experience life,” I stated. “To discover new gifts, new passions and new opportunities.”
I continued, “Why deny yourself all the great things that can come from failure? We can learn so much more from a failure than we can when everything goes as planned. As Neale Walsch so aptly said – ‘Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone.’”
No surprise, the interview didn’t go too well after that interchange. He kept looking at me like I was crazy and I at him with a subtle disappointment and sadness. While he was still in his early 30’s, I could already see the fear of failure and fear of vulnerability (link) taking root in his personality. He was already lowering the bar on his Deliberate Journey and he didn’t even see it.
So what about you? What’s the last significant failure you can think of?
I’m not talking about a report you submitted late or the quart of milk you forgot to pick up on the way home – I mean a honest-to-goodness screw up.
Do you push the envelope?
Do you still try if there is a 50:50 chance of success or have you begun to play not to lose too?
It doesn’t happen over night – we don’t push the envelope on Tuesday and then play it safe on Wednesday. Instead it slowly creeps in.
If you want to monitor, check to see if some of these ring true:
- You forget what got you here. Put differently, you forget the guy who took risks, gave things a try, experimented; the guy who was willing to look foolish to the crowd because he wanted to engage. Did the candor, assertiveness and willingness to risk get replaced with a quiet, mature, don’t-rock-the-boat manager?
- You strive for stable & secure. You started paying more attention to your mortgage payment, car loans and college tuition bills and less to the job posting board or the headhunter phone calls. “I need to just settle in and make a consistent salary – not a time to rock the boat,” the inner voice says.
- You started your “final approach” way too early. Are you trying to stay stable and secure for another 20 years instead of landing quick, changing planes and heading off to a new destination full of fuel and potential.
- You stopped dreaming. Dreams are the fuel to propel us out of our comfort zone. Dreams don’t come true for people who mark time and go through the motions. They happen for people who push the envelope. If you don’t have a fresh, compelling set of dreams – why should you risk it?
Don’t be like Ron.
Don’t let autopilot steal away the potential for new, different. Take a risk. Fail. Get up and do it again. Be deliberate. You’ll be amazed at the learning and the enjoyment waiting to be regained!