Sting, one of the most successful recording artists of all time, recorded an emotional, unplugged version of his song “Fragile” in 2001, as a tribute to those who lost their lives in the wake of the 9/11 tragedy.
I am more certain than ever that fragility is our human condition, and that mistakes and learning go hand-in-hand. Some mistakes are easily corrected in the short-term, others not so, but mistakes are part of learning, and they are all redemptive, in my experience.
I recall my first corporate (training) facilitation, while employed by a management consultancy. The client was a global banking services provider. I had spent a year actively involved in youth development and NGO work, with good results. I was confident, and gave my very best effort, only to receive a call from our account executive, stating that the delegates had not enjoyed the day. It was my first experience of corporate duplicity and “power games” and certainly not my last. I made adjustments to my approach and invested in engagement at a whole new level, with the same result. Ultimately, I realised that I just did not speak their language, having not walked in their shoes. I did not know their pain, or their environment well enough to be able to make appropriate connections. My principal, the account executive, had to rescue day 3, and I needed frequent immersions into the challenges of the workplace. In retrospect, I could have used an easier entry into business, but it was not to be. Many years later, I am grateful for the year of suffering that produced a hunger for, and understanding of the business world. It has made me a more empathetic and compassionate coach, and has enabled me to see the value of results over interventions and implementation over intention.
A second key learning in this regard is working in tandem with others. Tandem bicycles require both riders to exert energy, if the team is to win a competitive race. Likewise, we can do little of significance entirely on our own. I sometimes forget, in the midst of an anxious moment or a crisis, that I have a team with me. I am resourced with a network of geniuses (genii?) who will help me see things differently and upon whose strengths I can draw. When I remember this, I stress less, since I am solely accountable to solve issues. I urge you to access those in your network who believe in you and can help you land the kind of projects your potential has been waiting for.
Are you battling with mistakes you have made, that may have cost your business revenue, relationships or reputational loss? Own the mistakes, make the corrections and take heart! However painful the lessons we must learn on our professional journey, learn them we must. And the battles endured today will build resilience in us to survive times that would crush lesser dreams.