Is It Possible to Succeed without Experiencing Failure?

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The voices in our heads can be horribly mean: “You are failing as a mother.  You not a good wife.  You are a lousy daughter.  You are a bad friend. You are a bad manager.  That was a dumb thing to do.  You sounded stupid in that last meeting.  You didn’t complete your work AND you’re going to be late to the parent-teacher meeting. You have bad judgment, you make bad decisions. Your house is a disaster. Your health sucks.  You are too fat. You don’t make enough money. Your kids are badly behaved and it’s all your fault. Your cardio needs improvement. You have no grit.  You can’t do anything well!  You are a complete disaster!”  The spiral can happen pretty quickly and it’s a brutal if the other side of our brains don’t step up quickly enough to combat those bullies.  Lack of sleep and high expectations are not a good combination (am I right, new moms?)…

On the other hand, the celebration of success is entrenched in everything that we do, every Olympics, every career promotion, every project, every election…  What we don’t see is how hard those winners worked, how often they failed and how difficult it was for them to motivate themselves beyond the last fall or broken bone.

So how do we adjust our thoughts when we are bullying ourselves just at a time when we need to be encouraging ourselves to keep going?  Apparently the secret is to accept that failure is an integral process of succeeding.  Let’s hear from a few famous people, you know… famous for their many successes:

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.” – Confucius

“I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan

“Failure provides the opportunity to begin again, more intelligently.” – Henry Ford

“I don’t believe I have special talents, I have persistence … After the first failure, second failure, third failure, I kept trying.” – Carol Rubbia

“There is something to be said for keeping at a thing, isn’t there?” – Frank Sinatra

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” –  Thomas A. Edison

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” –  Winston Churchill

“It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.” – Bill Gates

Failure has to be BUILT in to the process!  It is actually a part of learning, improving, growing, developing… it is on the path to the success.  Success doesn’t happen without failure! If we stopped riding our bikes as soon as we fell off because we defined ourselves as a failure… then we fail to learn how to ride a bike.  If we define the falling off as a failure to get the balance right, then get back on, figure out how to adjust the balance… then we learn how to ride a bike. If we said “I’m not good at math” because we got some answers wrong, then we will be bad at math.  If we define getting the answer wrong as failure to get that answer right, but then asked about how to get it right and figured out where we went wrong… well, then we will learn how to get better at math!

So I hope you join me as we get back on the horse, get back on the bike and get up after each fall.  Never say die.  Just do it. Try and try again.  I’ll be back!  We start where we start!

 

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I Killed the Fun in Kung Fu

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I could feel the Tiger Mom in me emerging recently as I started hovering over the boys’ Kung Fu classes.  I would glare at them when it looked like they weren’t concentrating, frown at their happy chit chat with friends, and scold them during breaks to do better. The other day my younger one turned to me before class and mumbled, I hate Kung Fu, I don’t want to go.  And yet… that very day during lessons, I noticed how much higher their kicks were, how strong their ma bu was, how many stances and movements they have memorized, and how they hung out after class to rough house with their classmates.  And it dawned on me… my 8-year old didn’t hate Kung Fu at all!  He hated how I made him feel about himself when we were discussing Kung Fu!

The weird thing is, I can absolutely observe the huge improvements they have made… even as they resisted my pushing and internalized my criticisms. As much as they dislike the hard work of Kung Fu, we can all see how much stronger and more flexible they have become.  My older one told me that he didn’t like Kung Fu, but he liked the results.

Time to make Kung Fu fun again… time to see Kung Fu masters in action.  So, we watched Stephen Chow’s silly nutty Shaolin Soccer (subtitled no less), laughed at all the outrageous and exaggerated antics, got excited at the Chinese words they recognized and pointed out how to use Kung Fu in soccer.  We had fun!  Next, I let our Shifu know that I would no longer watch or critique my amazing boys while they were in Kung Fu class.  He concurred that parents can put an awful lot of pressure on the kids and it can turn them off of something that is such a great life long practice.

Note to self: time to retire Tiger Mom!

Not Just a Pretty Face

A new CFO visited my office for a run down.  After I walked him through our business and budget, he smiled and declared in a surprised tone “You’re not just a pretty face.  You really know your business.”

As far as backhanded compliments go, it wasn’t terrible I suppose.  He was nearly twice my age, male and white.  I, on the other hand, am a chubby, glasses-wearing, non-make-up wearing Asian girl.  I was running one of the biggest units.  I responded “Thanks, I’ll take that as a compliment.  Although, I don’t know if I would consider myself prettyCute, maybe, but not pretty.  Yes, I do know my business.  I’ve been doing this for 6 years. In any case, what I need from you is…”

It was only at that moment that I realized I was facing sexism and ageism in a way that I had never thought existed in my life.  That experience caused me to think about the training manual we receive as we move into managerial positions. (Or lack thereof…) See below for the Secrets to Getting On with It!

KNOW YOUR WORTH: Don’t sell yourself short.  If you are doing the work, get the pay, get the title. Negotiate for what you’re worth.  At least ask. Don’t just assume that people are going to pay you what you are worth.

NOT THE SECRETARY: Just because you are the most organized or the fastest typist, don’t do the grunt work for the group unless you have a strategic reason for doing so. Sometimes I like taking minutes because I get to influence the To Do List.

SEEK OUT MENTORS: Find higher ups you look up to.  Identify successful people who possess similar values.  You aren’t going to succeed trying to emulate styles that are not authentic to who you are.  Learn from them.  Seek guidance. Get coaching.

FEELING DISRESPECTED: When someone is going out of their way to disrespect you, determine the value of the relationship.  If it is one you cannot afford to lose, overcome them with professionalism, competency and lack of response.  (Bullies like the response.)

MANAGE UP, DOWN AND ALL AROUND: All relationships require nurturing.  When managing up, make them look good.  When managing down, help them succeed.  When managing around, be useful. A team player should be good at leading as well as following.

IGNORE THE JOB DESCRIPTION: A job description is out of date as soon as it is posted. Furthermore, each person will make the specific position unique based on their strengths and weaknesses.  Get the core work done, then flex your muscles and show your strengths.

FAKE IT UNTIL YOU MAKE IT: It’s never a good time.  You’re never really ready.  You don’t have all the answers. Things are never perfect.  But you have to go for it, do your best, and learn while you are doing until it comes together.  Just do it.

BE KIND TO YOURSELF: If you have a tendency to be a perfectionist, you know that this trait is part of the reason why you are successful.  But if you are self-aware, you will also know that it will be the death of you.  Be as nice to yourself as you are to others.

The world can be a dog eat dog world, but you don’t have to be a dog.  You just have to understand who you want to be and figure out how to succeed while being yourself.

Taming the Mommy Rage


The world is a complicated web of people, things, events, beliefs, truths (and alternative facts!) and emotions. When people go through various challenging situations, it’s easy to get lost in doing, fixing, organizing… basically going through the motions of life.

It isn’t always the right time to each out to ask for help, because it may feel like failure or weakness. The love and support from others can feel a lot like pity or judgment. When you’re not at your best, you may not be able to see the world with enthusiasm, optimism or openness. In fact, sometimes you get so overwhelmed, you just turn off and stop feeling or caring. That’s pretty scary and may require professional help. But if you haven’t quite gone that far, then you may end up just being angry all the time!

Sometimes you have just enough wherewithal to feel like it’s everyone else’s fault, the kids’ fault, the spouse’s fault, the friend’s fault, the neighbour’s fault… Everyone else is to blame. You have just enough brain space to get angry and express that anger by lashing out, judging others and wishing they would just change! I call this Mommy Rage. It’s not that you don’t have good reason to be upset (you probably do)… it’s just that your extreme response is probably not entirely commensurate to the infraction. So. What to do? How to tame the Mommy Rage?

YOU START WHERE YOU START
It’s important to move away from what ‘should be’ and straight to what actually is. You just have to start where you start. If the house is a total mess, it really doesn’t help to judge yourself. You have to accept that it’s a mess and figure out what you want and how much you are willing to invest to achieve it.

WHAT DOES THE RAGE SAY?
There’s no point in saying ‘calm down’ because the reality is that you’re mad. The question is what is that feeling telling you? Ask yourself why you are angry. The answer may surprise you if you delve deeply enough. It’s not usually what triggered it (the messy house) but something else related to why a messy house indicates something bigger… Figure out the underlying reason for the extreme rage and then follow up with…

FIND THE WIN-WIN
There is always a win-win solution. You just have to know that it exists. You have to want it. You have to commit to getting there. Mommy Rage almost always involves conflicting goals or lack of resources or not enough head space. So… make sure you give yourself some head space by resting, taking a break or breathing. Then find the win-win

THE ANSWER IS ALWAYS LOVE
Explain, guide and model good behaviour through love. After an episode of Mommy Rage, it’s important to pause, think things through… express that it was not an appropriate way to deal with the situation… and walk through the thoughts that led to Mommy Rage. It’s important to express love. It’s hard to be angry when you remember the love. Then, together, figure out “how could we have done that better?”

Where’s the Silver Lining in Turning 65?

My mother is the most inspiring person I know.  She’s always positive, encouraging and kind.  I’ve learned so many lessons from her that have gotten me through difficult times. She’s a hilarious story teller.  Here’s one of her cute stories:

“ㄅㄧ、ㄅㄧ、ㄅㄧ”,那是什麼聲音?原來是老年人免費車票卡的刷卡聲,到了65歲,拿到卡的親友們常會說:“三聲無奈” 、“我寧可沒有”、“唉,那表示我老了”….

那年我63歲,再兩年我就要拿老人卡了,我想,年齡增長,是自然現象,沒有一個人可以避免。當我拿到的時候,與其哀嘆ㄞㄊㄢˋ,不如轉個念,“ㄅㄧ、ㄅㄧ、ㄅㄧ”、“哈、哈、哈”、“好、開、心”、“免、費、票”….,還要感恩政府,鼓勵我們老年人出外走動,給我們這麼好的福利,說聲“謝、謝、謝”。

“Beep. Beep. Beep.”

What’s that noise? It’s the sound made by the Senior’s Bus Pass.  It beeps once for regular fare, twice for student fare and three times for seniors 65 and over, who travel on the Taipei City bus system for free.  Recent recipients of this benefit have complained: “The three beeps of hopelessness!” “I’d rather not qualify for this pass.” or “This means I’m getting old!”

The year I turned 63 (knowing that I was two years away from getting my own Senior’s Bus Pass), I thought to myself, “Aging is merely a natural phenomenon; no one can avoid it.” So the year I obtained my card… instead of lamenting, I thought “Why not find the silver lining?”  So my mantra became: “Beep. Beep. Beep.” “Ha. Ha. Ha.” “I. Am. Glad.” “This. Is. Free.”

You know, we should thank the government. This really encourages us older people to get out and about. It’s a fabulous benefit!  “Beep. Beep. Beep.” = “Thanks. Thanks. Thanks.”

Mirrors, Sponges, and Little Drunk People: Striving to Be a Better Adult

The other day I saw a meme on Facebook: “Our job as parents is not to train children to act like adults. Our job is to be better adults.”

Something about having (or even being around) children forces us to look at ourselves more closely and critically. Children are at once 1) mirrors, reflecting us back to us, 2) sponges, soaking up and learning everything, and 3) little drunk people, who cannot control their emotions and behaviours.

When we yell in frustration “STOP YELLING, BE QUIET OR ELSE!” they will copy our approach to dealing with things that don’t go their  way. 

When we tell them that their work is just not good enough, their brains internalize our voice and they learn to tell themselves they are not good enough.

When we force them to do things they are not developmentally ready to do, we undermine their growth and maturity.

They hear every negative thing we say about others; they see every reaction we have under stress; they internalize our messages…
We must be our best selves as we help them develop their own navigation system for the world: they need a sense of right and wrong, judgment to know the difference, wisdom to make good decisions, and strength to stick to the right choices. 

Children watch our every word and deed, learning from every breath we take and every move we make. It is imperative for us to strive to be better adults. We must model for them good behaviour.

Reflection on the Kung Fu Virtue of STRIVE

The practice of mind, spirit, and body to make the right decisions(Deflecting cravings with discipline.)

Vigilance in word, thought, and deed with compassion.

To strive is to find inspiration from challenge, growth from discomfort, learning from critique.

Striving turns ink into art, anger into motivation, and fear into opportunity.

Striving is embracing a journey

Where each step is celebrated

Each try appreciated

Each mistake reimagined

Each obstacle challenged

Each transgression forgiven

Each interaction embraced.

Striving is when perfection is not the end goal, but rather the journey.