Sometimes you win and sometimes you learn

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My kids have this sign hanging in their room that says “Sometimes you win and sometimes you learn.” I’m pretty sure it’s just a cheesy saying from some craft store, but the lesson rang true tonight.

Giving up a game-winning homer

One of my sons is playing baseball and, having moved to a new level, hitting has been tough so far this season. But he and I went out and practiced a bunch over the weekend and his efforts were rewarded with a 2 for 3 performance tonight.

That’s all well and good, but he pitched the last inning. And after getting the first couple of kids out, the next couple reached base, bringing up the best hitter on the team. My son threw him a great pitch and the kid crushed the ball over the leftfield fence. Game over.

Ugh. These are the critical, yucky, challenging moments of parenting, where there are “valuable lessons” to be learned that I don’t particularly enjoy. It’s in these moments that I’m reminded of my own challenges and failures.

Showing up severely late to a client meeting

I can remember a few years ago when I was working with a client to quantify some key recommendations for ways they could improve their customer experience. I worked for weeks leading up to a presentation. I was ready to knock their socks off with valuable insight.

The drive to meet the client was about an hour and I timed my arrival perfectly. But when I arrived, I quickly discovered that I made a mistake in looking at my calendar and the meeting was actually earlier than I thought. My leisurely waltz into the conference room quickly turned into panic.

While I was still able to meet with the client, the meeting was abbreviated and failed to deliver the impact I had hoped. After apologizing profusely to the client, my colleagues, and my boss, I can remember my boss saying something like “I’m sure you learned your lesson and it won’t happen again.” I did in fact learn a valuable lesson that day.

Responding to the yucky feeling of failure

There are SO many blogs, books, and TED Talks about failure that I don’t need to add to the noise. But, as I watch my kids (and myself) grapple with failure, here’s the response I sincerely hope for them.

  1. Admit that failure sucks – Emotions ran high in our home this evening. It’s perfectly normal to be completely deflated and disappointed in the face of failure. Don’t attempt to bottle that up.
  2. Don’t fixate solely on the failure – It’s only natural to want to fixate on the negative, but don’t forget to be grateful for the positives that happened along the way. 2 for 3 at the plate is a good game — especially after putting in extra practice to earn that result. That’s reason for celebration. Furthermore, his team put together a pretty good game tonight and there were plenty of opportunities to congratulate others on their successes.
  3. Work harder for the next time – I’m not one of those parents who’s going to drive his kids to work harder and be better the next time around. Ultimately, the improvement will come when my son is intrinsically motivated to put in the time and energy to improve for the next time. The fact that, amid the emotions, he immediately wanted to go play catch in the backyard after the game (in the dark) tells me there’s plenty of motivation.
  4.  Learn – In that moment of failure, take the time to sit with it, think about what went wrong, and resolve to do better. In the case of my missed meeting, I’m much more careful to map out each day to make sure I don’t miss any key appointments.

Translating this to work in Customer Experience

My inbox this morning was full of all sorts of fun stuff. Amid the reports of all different shapes and sizes were five notifications that customers had publicly reviewed our company on various review sites. Four of the reviews were five out of five stars.

But then there was that lousy fifth review that was one star. And that one review consumed more of my time than the other four combined. You can rest assured that, amid the letdown of the bad review, I will celebrate the good ones, commit to learning from that bad review and find any and all ways to improve for next time.

Finally, thanks for reading. If this post hasn’t been a complete recap of every other post you’ve read about failure, I’d love to hear about any failures that loom large in your mind. And how did you respond? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

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