Get Past Failure with Tiny Tweaks

Tell me how you failed today. Wait, what?! That’s not typically what you hear coming from me, is it? Sarah Blakely, founder of Spanx© and the youngest female billionaire, tells this story of growing up. Every night at the dinner table, her father would say, “Tell me how you failed today.” It wasn’t because he was a negative person. It was his view that it was important to keep a sense of challenge and growth alive throughout life. Susan David, author of Emotional Agility, calls this the tiny tweaks principle – making small changes to break habits. We have a choice in what we say and do. Looking at where we have failed can help us find the balance between challenge and competence and give us the agility to move forward through life’s peaks and valleys.

I failed yesterday. I was in a conversation with someone who was very angry and resentful of his work situation. While he was venting his story to me, I was thinking in my head, “What question can I ask him that will help him?” I wish I had actually asked that question. I didn’t and I failed to pause and listen. Instead, I made statements about what I saw was the issue. I allowed his anger and frustration to reflect in the tone I used with him in the conversation. Neither of us was listening to the other person. We were just trying to get our stories heard. It was helpful for me to reflect on that conversation because something I want to work on more is better, more present listening. Many of you may recall that the great TV interviewer Larry King died this past week. He was famous for asking few questions, following where his guest’s responses led. He didn’t make it about his agenda. He rarely said “I…” This came up in my reflection and reminded me again to slow down my thoughts, pause, and really listen to what is being said. This is a tiny tweak that can make a big difference in the outcome of a conversation.

So, tell me about a time you failed. What happened? What did you do that you would like to change? What tiny tweak can you try that will help you in your personal and professional growth? You’re welcome to share it with me. I will be a good listener. *smile*

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