I try, I really do. I am a husband, a father, a son, a friend, an employee and employer. All of those attributes sit on top and are encased by my strong faith. So when I say, ‘I try,’ what I mean is that I try to walk out my core values in all those roles. I work hard to be honest, and I fail. I work hard to exhibit integrity, and I fail. I strive to be accountable, and again, I fail. I work hard to be trustworthy, yet failure in the above eats away at trust.
When do I realize my shortcomings the most? Usually it is at night or on Sunday mornings; the times when I force myself to be still and quiet just long enough to examine my day or week.
I have learned over time that it is not my failings I am called to focus on, but the reactions to those failures where I find hope. There was a time in my life where failing in one area would just lead to giving up in all other areas. By nature, I am a runner. If I do not like something, I flee. In my life, I left college three times, left many relationships, left more jobs than I wish to count, and given up exercise and diet programs just because I gave into the cravings.
I am what some would call an extremist. It is all or nothing — couch potato to iron man. I live by the motto, “Go big or go home.” That works okay for me when going big is going well, but the minute going big is an epic failure, I was going home — always before the miracle of change could even begin.
The good news is that over time, I have started to learn that failure is a requirement for success. Jeff Stibel, CEO of Dun & Bradsteet in Hawaii, decided to create a Failure Wall to motivate his employees to feel more comfortable taking risks. The response was incredible; you can read more about it here. If I go out the first time and knock it out of the park, then for me, chances are I did not set my expectations high enough. On the flip side, I have to set my expectations realistically, and for me, that means seeking guidance from others I respect before setting those goals.
Over the last 10 months I have been applying this to my personal life around my fitness goals. I started working out because I was landlocked and needed a way to expel some nervous energy. I am the type of person that gets depressed when I do not exert myself. I have tried gyms over the years as an adult and I stink at it. Left to my own devices, I will just not stick with it. I am the type who needs structure and someone yelling at me if I do not show up or I start to give up. So when I set my fitness goals I sought (and seek) coaching.
The same goes for the other areas of my life. Faith, family and employment. At Culture Infusion, our mission is to infuse character into business. This is why Bill Rieger and I try to be transparent in our posts. Again I use the word ‘try.’ Despite embracing failure more and more over time, I still do not like it. When we started this blog, we knew we would be “out there.” We knew what we wrote would now be accessible to our current and future employers and employees (not to mention friends and spouses). Since starting this blog, I have hired tons of folks, and many of them have read our blog. It is humbling in interviews to have potential candidates say to me that they like my leadership philosophy and to have others who have been bold enough to say, ‘I am not sure I agree with you.’ Other peers in my industry have a clear line into how I think, and that can lead to opportunities to poke at my exposed weaknesses. However, all I can say is, I try. I try to walk my talk. I try to lead with integrity and I try to be honest in all I do. I try to learn from others knowing that what makes me better are those I choose to surround myself with.
Bill and I created this blog because we believe so passionately about the necessity of being intentional about our relationships with our co-workers and our staff. Relationships are the foundation of any culture. As human beings, we cannot ever separate our personal and professional lives 100 percent. They merge in the form of how we act and react to situations. My promise to myself and those I serve is to keep trying; to never give up, and to constantly reflect on my failures and to embrace them as stepping stones on the way to the summit.
I believe that this is what great leaders are made of. As Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I have just discovered 10,000 ways that won’t work.” I too have found thousands of ways that do not work. It does not work to compromise my values, but it took failing to learn that. It never ends well for me to give up on my fitness goals, or to avoid tough conversations with colleagues or staff, but again, it took failing to understand that. So for me, I will stick to the mantra given to me as a kid: “Just keep trying, you’ll get it.” I suspect I will never arrive, but I am going to keeping working on embracing the learning process all the way. Be bold today; let your failures be lessons that others see you grow by.