We’ve established that we want to be 9’s striving to be 10’s. It is impossible to never slip and fail or we’d already be the 10’s we’re striving to be. Perfection is an irresponsible and unattainable goal. You could spend the whole day doing your face and hair. Your face is still not going to be symmetrical. You cannot draw a circle by hand without the help of a compass or some other technology. Even then that circle still won’t be quite perfect.
Try explaining the complexities of the English language to a six year old. Just the various definitions of the word present will make their head spin. I definitely did not do a great job explaining it to my daughter. She got a good laugh out of it.
I failed. You know what? It wasn’t so bad.
Ladies, gentlemen, and my gender non-specific friends, I am proud to report I experienced a rather epic failure earlier this week. In the interest of getting what I want out of my job and my life I approached my boss with some rather radical ideas on change. I decided I was working too much in an unsupported fashion and I wanted to course correct. I used the energy I created from wanting to escape my dilemma. I also attempted to attain a promotion and raise. These were two polar concepts I somehow fused together. I approached a want and separate need at the same time.
I spent immense emotion, thought, time, energy, and positivity into these competing goals. All this while I became deluded to the potential of looming failure. My wife and mother-in-law had both cautioned me that I would not get what I want. They said what I was attempting was too radical to be accepted. Another of my trusted confidants warned me that I may even get fired for making myself a threat to my boss. I didn’t see the forest for the trees, or something.
My proposal seemed fool-proof. I would become recruiter and personnel development manager for one fifth of my work week and continue my current job the other four fifths. My vision was to staff my department and train and develop the new staff to eventually automate my current position. Then I could focus entirely on the managerial tasks. I even began active recruiting as you may have seen or heard if we are connected through social networks.
One of my main intentions was to free myself up to work remotely one day a week. This was a main cross-over point in the now back-up plan for a workload and time in office reduction. I was being over-worked to a point of physical detriment. I needed less hours on the clock. Aside from allowing me to be physically healthier I was at a point in my life where I could afford to work one day less per week. I looked forward to focusing on my family, my self-improvement journey, and my hobbies for an extra day off per week.
I created a presentation that laid out the benefits of promoting me, and prepared myself for addressing my boss. My boss listened intently to the presentation. We went back and forth on his vision and what he deemed his pain points. I addressed those and presented my own vision for my department and how I would directly assist future company growth. I left the initial conversation feeling good. I felt it was a slam dunk.
Later my boss approached me and told me I would be having a meeting with the company leadership the following day to go over my presentation. He also told me that we would not be going to the four day work week I proposed.
Assuming I would not be promoted at all I came up with a contingency of demands that would allow me to still walk away from the negotiation table a winner. There was nothing outrageous on my contingency plan, but the fifth day off or out of store threatened too much to disrupt an already short-staffed department. I had been communicating my plan and desire to get out and recruit with my coworkers who were also in my position. I felt they were either on board or at minimal on board enough since they felt overworked and nearly burnt out like myself.
I continued down my path of relentless optimism. I arrived to the meeting prepared for the worst in what I assumed was a denial of my desired promotion. I knew I could get at least what I had laid out in my contingency plan. I was wrong.
With respect to my company and its leadership I will not go into the details of the meeting that followed, but I left the negotiation table with no more than confirmation that my contingency was not unreasonable. There was a verbal commitment that my company’s leadership will do their best to support reducing my workload. There would be no fifth day out recruiting or off work. I would not be made a boss.
I was even reminded how selfish I am and can be. Everything is always about me. Ironically a cornerstone of my negotiation strategy was focusing on my own skill-set and performance while not pointing out the short-comings of my coworkers comparatively.
It got heated at moments, but everyone kept cool. I didn’t blow up and pull a Scarface from the movie Half Baked. My bosses didn’t fire me for stirring up the pot. I left the meeting late. I was late to date night with my wife. I would be lucky to get home in time to say goodnight to my daughter before she went to bed. I would not see her at all that day since I had to leave for work before she awoke. Now I was coming home almost an hour after her bedtime. These were exactly the things I was fighting for and I had failed.
I was in shock for the ride home. I couldn’t think about what had happened. All I could think about was that my pits were stinking. I thought of getting home to my daughter and possibly salvaging date-night.
I was so caught up in my positivity I was blind to reality. I failed, completely and utterly. My worst case scenario was not realized, but it was still a poor outcome.
I got home and my energy woke my daughter up. I got to kiss her goodnight and tell her I love her after all. I had an understandably disappointed wife. I told her that I knew that sometimes it really sucks to be my wife. I told her she was right like she always is and I should listen to her more. I told her I love her.She forgave me. She even let me mope and be somewhat miserable the next couple of days.
In the hours and days that followed I relished in my failure. I used hindsight to figure out where I failed and how I could have achieved different results. First I realized I was attempting to solve a conflicting need and desire with contrary solutions. If I had chosen whichever was more important to me and put all my energy into one solid concise solution I would have had a much greater chance of success.
Maybe I should have approached the presentation more mathematically instead of logically. Maybe I let my recent self-work and course correction get to my head. Maybe they all were right and I had lost my humility somewhere.
Failure is just a step in the process. I reevaluated what was important to me. Perhaps I did not need to make radical changes to get the changes I needed.
I wasn’t taking my government mandated breaks. My legs had been experiencing circulatory issues from standing so long on a hard surface during my workday. Even though the pace of my work made it difficult to take breaks and lunch, no one implicitly said I could not take them. The day following the meeting I told my direct report that I would be taking a lunch break and I would need him to support my coworkers while I would be gone. I would take the initiative to sit for a few minutes throughout the day to rest my legs as well.
I stopped feeling like I needed to take care of every customer and starting saying “no.” Even if I knew I was turning away a lucrative sale. There is always enough business and sales to go around for everyone. I did not have to do everything all the time.
I proceeded to sit at my desk chair more. I looked for ways to reduce footsteps. I looked for tasks that I felt I needed to do that could be delegated to others within my organization. As I’ve heard so often from superiors and mentors in my life I began the journey of working smarter and not harder.
I already knew it is about the journey and not the destination. The destination is ever-changing in form and distance. I remembered I have a cool job with great coworkers and a fantastic clientele. My work is interesting and lucrative. I remembered my family is beautiful and supportive of me and my happiness. I am lucky to have them. I am lucky to have a wife and trusted advisors in my life who call me on my bullshit when I’m slipping. They warn me, “Don’t get ahead of yourself,” “They’re going to fire you,” “It’s not going to work,” and “It’s not your place to try to radically change someone else’s business.”
I may not have taken heed to any of their advice, but I did listen. I may take their advice more to heart next time I try to fly so close to the sun.
I may have failed in my power play, but I won as well. I rediscovered my humility. I found areas for new improvement in my career performance that were similar to the ways I’ve had to improve in my own personal development, as well as in that of how I interact with my family. I would stop blaming others and start looking inwardly.
The night of the negotiation my nephew was staying over at my place. He was playing Fortnite. It is the most current massively multi-player online video game that people are wasting hours and days of their lives playing. I used to play games like that before I realized what a waste of time they truly were. I could not judge him harshly as he is a good kid. I promptly and playfully called him “Nerd.” I then asked if he wanted to see my favorite video game of all time, Smash TV.
He acquiesced. I proceeded to take out my dusty Super Nintendo. He asked if it was a Gamecube. I told him it was the dinosaur or wooly mammoth to the caveman Gamecube. I let him know that I was about my daughter’s age when the Super Nintendo came out. I fiddled with the cables to set it up on the television. He fiddled with his tablet and played a round of Fortnite while he waited.
The screen finally came on with the familiar “Acclaim” logo and theme music from my youth. My nephew eased down off the couch onto the floor next to me and picked up the antediluvian wired controller. I explained the simple two dimensional control operation and we began the game.
Upon losing our last life he stated, “Who knew how these old games could be so fun.” I told him about what it was like being a gamer back then. The cost of game cartridges was comparable to console games on today’s Xbox and Playstation. I also told him games rarely had a save progress feature. That meant you might spend three to seven hours playing a game just to get to the final boss with only one or two lives. The boss would smoke you and it was “GAME OVER!” He responded, “Then you would play it again?” I said, “No way! You’d be heartbroken and demoralized.”
The statement was ironic considering what had happened just hours earlier. I had achieved another win in reconnecting with my nephew. Had the evening not taken such an unusual course I most likely would have busied myself when I got home and never taken the time to do something different with my nephew who I care immensely for. They all grow up way too fast.
I specifically remember another game from my youth called “Streets of Rage 2.” It was a side-scrolling punch, kick, jump beat ’em up game. When you transcended the five levels you’d meet the final boss, Mr. X. Mr. X would give you a choice to join him or fight him. If you chose to join your sworn enemy, as I had tried to twice, he would send you all the way back to level two from the end. You would have to play with your remaining lives. Talk about a failure you would definitely learn from.
I’d like to punctuate my post tonight on failure with mention of Major League Baseball and New York Yankee slugger Giancarlo Stanton. Stanton won the National League Most Valuable Player honor in 2017 for the Los Angeles Dodgers before being traded in the off season to the Bronx Bombers. He signed with the Yanks for three hundred and twenty five million dollars. Stanton struck out five times in five at bats in his home opener this season. His home crowd booed him.
That was a glorious failure as was mine. I’m not sure if Giancarlo Stanton learned anything from his failure, but he already has that outrageously lucrative contract. He can afford a failure or two. I, on the other hand, am not yet a three hundred millionaire. For now I will be content attempting to fail in an upwards trajectory.