Goals – Part 3: Why failing is ok

In my first post around goals I mentioned that when I think of goals to achieve, they always need to be massive. Therefore, setting goals tends to scare me. Somehow, if they aren’t big, they don’t count. I find it super hard to be proud of achieving little things (and I consider a lot of things to be little things, even if they might be pretty cool achievements). I am quite result oriented, I like to overachieve, and I like to get sh*t done. So why do I worry about setting goals so much then?

Because I don’t like to fail. I’m incredibly worried about failing.

Now that might be interesting to focus on a bit more. I’ve had my fair share of fails and even though I might have been devastated about it at the time, it usually turned out fine later down the line. If anything: failing has taught me to be more resilient. Then why is it still so ingrained in me to try and prevent failure at all times?

Because the feeling of failure sucks. I think a lot of you can agree with me on that.

When I promised my music teacher I’d play a piece at “keyboard recital evening” (please don’t judge) and didn’t practice enough so I had to ask if I could play a different piece instead halfway through it in front of 50 parents…it was embarrassing. When I flunked my last year of high school, I was in pieces and I still don’t like talking about it. When I failed my driving test, I was gutted. When I had to do my statistics exams over and over, I dreaded it. When I wasn’t allowed to proceed with my initial Master thesis, I was massively thrown. I still don’t like talking about that either. When I was rejected for traineeships and later, other jobs I set my heart on I wailed and sulked passionately. The list of my failings is longer than I care to share.

What really matters I guess, is that I got up and tried again. I did graduate, did get my driving license, I got my Master’s degree and ended up on a career path I’m really happy with.

Not failing because you never try would be something to worry about. Not learning from your failings would be something to worry about. But failing on its own is just an opportunity to learn, get up, try again and do better. 

I think it’s important to consider the implications of failing. What happens if you fail? Is it really that bad if you have to get up and try again? It might set you back a bit in time, but failing really very rarely is something you can’t overcome at a later moment in time.

How many people will remember your failure other than yourself? Often, it’s mainly you who will keep judging yourself on something you failed at a long time ago. And even if you do have people in your life who like to remind you of when you failed: It’s not really about them. It’s about you: your goals, your aspirations. Its about you trying until you succeed.

Interestingly enough, and a lot has been written and said about this, when we look at successful people, we don’t perceive them to be people who ever fail. Even though it’s probably the failing, the getting back up, not giving up, that got them to be as successful as they are. Their success came from resilience and persistence.

So I’m going to try and care a little less about failing and about what other people think, and a bit more about persisting and finding alternatives if at first I don’t succeed.

How do you feel about failing? How do you deal with failure? What has failing brought and taught you?

Thought this video was pretty good:

This video might be a bit corny, but it’s a good reminder to put things into perspective.

Reads that are on my to do list (I dislike failing so much, I couldn’t even get myself to read these books yet…but I will!):

How to fail – Elizabeth Day

Failing Forward – John C. Maxwell

Fail fast, fail often – Ryan Babineaux

The balancing act that is called feedback

One of the first things I learned when I moved abroad was how differently feedback is provided and perceived in the Netherlands and the UK

In my second month of working in the UK, I made someone cry giving them feedback. I really didn’t understand what I had done to cause such an intense reaction. As most people, I don’t enjoy upsetting people, so it was clear to me I had to find out what had gone wrong.

Dutch people are perceived to be very direct and straight forward. We don’t tend to ask if it’s a good moment to share some feedback. We just give you the feedback when it suits us, and you’re expected to “take it like a man”. Sugar-coating is a word that doesn’t translate very well to Dutch.

I actually think it would be good for some Dutch people to learn from the Brits to act a bit less rude. I also think it would be good for some Brits to learn from the Dutch to be a bit more direct. 

Getting the feedback thing right is a balancing act. Not providing constructive feedback can put managers in quite some trouble down the line. You’re not giving people the opportunity to improve if you don’t share feedback. Providing too much critical feedback can have a demoralising effect.

How do you find the right balance? I hear you think.

What a lot of people forget most of the time, is putting yourself in the receiving party’s shoes. What would it do to you to get this type of feedback? How can you be more considerate about the message you’re delivering?

When you have feedback to share, always consider if it’s useful. If the only thing you do by criticising behaviour or work is hurt someone, it’s probably better to keep it to yourself. If you deliver feedback so someone can change or improve, it’s the right thing to do. Make sure to be concrete; have one or two examples ready to share to back up what you’re trying to bring across.

Somehow, I get asked to provide 360 feedback quite regularly now, even for people outside of my direct remit. I like to believe I have learned to be better if people actually ask for my opinion, right?

Receiving feedback is an interesting one too. My chimp can play up when I get feedback I don’t agree with or feel is unfair or unfunded. It’s hard to just take it in and not be defensive about it. My advice is to always try to take feedback on gracefully. Breathe, count to ten and maybe sleep on it. If you want to come back on it, do it when you’ve calmed down.

Sometimes feedback is reflective of what the person giving you the feedback is dealing with. Sometimes it’s perception. It’s always a good idea to sanity check with some other people if they recognise the feedback you’ve been given.

Remember it’s your choice what you do with feedback. Maybe you don’t recognise it at all. Maybe you recognise it, but you don’t feel the need to change. Maybe you don’t recognise it immediately, but it might make sense after pondering it over for a bit. Maybe you do recognise it and it’s a quick fix, or maybe it’s hard to change, but you’re willing to. It’s really up to you. Will changing the thing you were criticized on make you more effective? Then you’ll probably be better off taking it on the chin.

I’ve not even touched on positive feedback. Probably deserves a separate blog. For now I would say: if you have anything nice to say to someone, don’t hold back. It makes people happy and it doesn’t cost you a thing.  

How do you deal with feedback? Do you ever reflect on your behaviour? Have you ever changed anything on the back of feedback you received?

Here’s a quick video on the topic:

Recommended reads: The Chimp paradox and Radical Candor

What makes you tick?

When I was in between jobs, I got to this point where I thought I would never get excited about any job again, unless it was a job as a yoga teacher in Bali, a travel blogger sponsored through my Instagram account and YouTube channel with a million followers and subscribers, or a food critic, dining out for free for the rest of my life and handing out Michelin stars left right and centre.

I thought I failed massively at my first UK job: I wasn’t sure if I was very good at managing or let alone leading people anymore, it felt like IT was just not the right area for me, and I would always have a problem fitting in with British company culture.

I was wrong.

When I did some work with Kat the Coach, she made me think about criteria and values. What would my ideal job look like and why? What was it about those slightly unrealistic dream jobs I could convert to more realistic things that would make me happy in a job? What was I looking for in a company culture that matches my beliefs? Until that moment, I didn’t realise it’s so important to understand what drives you and gets you excited, in order to go and do things you love and that make you thrive.

Your core values will always stay about the same. Some values might become more important or less important than others over time because life happens. If you understand what your values are and what it is that makes you tick, it’s much easier to find things that make you excited to get up in the morning. You’ll understand what energises you and what drains you. What things you should be doing more of and what you might want to sandwich between activities that do energise. You’ll focus more on what you’re good at and that can help to achieve great things.

What makes me tick is making teams work well together, trying to do the best I can to make people enjoy their jobs, driving improvement and progression, working with awesome, smart, eager, humble people with a can-do attitude, getting sh*t done and Marie Condo-ing myself into bigger responsibilities by cleaning up messes I stumble upon while I’m trying to get sh*t done. O, and sometimes a little pat on the shoulder for a job well done. Lucky for me, that describes my job and the people I work with very well!

Have you ever considered what your values are? What makes you tick?

Testing the waters…

The last time I posted a blog was on the 15th of November 2017. It was an update on the outcome of my job hunt; had I really found a job to love? After that heads-up, I got caught up in the day job and also, I didn’t really know what to write about anymore, since my mission was accomplished.

Lately, I’ve been regaining that itch to write and I’ve even been playing around with the idea of writing a book. Now that’s big. And scary.

This is where the ever-lingering Imposter syndrome comes in. I don’t really believe I’m accomplished enough to write a successful book and I’m not sure people would actually want to read anything I write. I will definitely spend a blog on to that subject at some point.

However, there is so much I want to write about, which is why I’m not going to let that voice in the back of my head hold me back. I decided to try and test the waters with a new blog.

Simon Sinek teaches us to start with why. I just shared why I’m starting this blog. But why would you be reading this blog?

This blog will cover growth, development, feedback, insecurities, strengths, weaknesses, challenges, resilience and people. I hope the topics I’ll bring to the table make you think about you and how you deal with challenges, people and life, just as they make me think about those things and drive me to try to be and do better, every day.

I’m not a well-established CEO from Silicon Valley. I do work for a FTSE 250 company that ranks in the top 5 of Glassdoor and Great Place to work and I like to think I’m learning things at this company that are worth sharing. I’m still growing, developing, learning and I enjoy sharing what I learn.