Archive for the ‘Dog Journal’ Category

The Power of Failure

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

fail nametagWhen the same message comes at me from several directions, I figure it’s time to pay attention.

The bombardment started with a sticker we were required to wear at a coaches’ training class. It wore a single four-letter word: FAIL. Not only were we told it was OK to fail. We were encouraged to fail and learn from it. Never failing meant never getting outside our comfort zones, never taking a chance on intuition. For each failure, we were rewarded with a chicken scratch on the sticker. I got a few.

Round 2 came in a sermon, in which the pastor suggested erasers might be a good symbol to keep around. Without failure, he said, there was no learning. The eraser meant we could keep going and trying, learning from our mistakes.

The final round came via my current book of choice: Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman, PhD. In it, the author acknowledges that failure causes all of us to become “momentarily helpless,” but that in optimists the helplessness does not persist. Another good reason to view failure as an opportunity to learn.

If wisdom comes in 3’s, the message is clear. If the dog eats your planner and it feels like a failure, one question to ask is “Yeah, but what did I learn from it?”

What have you failed at recently? What did you learn from it?

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Life Balance Like Sailing

Friday, September 10th, 2010

sailboatI had the grand opportunity to help “crew” a sailboat on Lake Erie this week. In sailboating, I soon learned, there is no such thing as just going along for the ride. What makes it fun is that every passenger soon gets an assignment, whether it’s as elementary as swabbing the decks or as advanced as hoisting the sail.

A newcomer to sailing, I was definitely in the “swabbing” category. Mopping requires no particular knowledge of sailing terminology. Starboard or port, a deck is a deck. A sail, however, is not just a sail. It is a main sail, mast, jib or boom.

The voyage – which happily took us from harbor to lake and back to harbor without mishap – reminded me of a few principles of life balance that are worth noting:

If you’re off course, even a small adjustment of the sail can make a huge difference.
If you’re “dead in the water,” it’s handy to have a back-up motor of reserve energy that can move you to a better place.
And – very important – You can’t do it all yourself.

Here’s to smoother sailing!

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The Purple Hydrangea

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

DSC01005Outside the cottage we rented at Lake Erie last month, there was plenty to gawk at. Kayaks gliding and occasionally capsizing, sailboats disappearing in the distance, and a variety of long-legged birds. But the sight that garnered the idle speculation was a particular hydrangea blossom outside the cottage.

Unlike its bronzy pink siblings on the bush, this one was decidedly purple – a perfect match for the painted bench outside our front door. Happily gawdy, it had found a way to stand out. We speculated on the cause. Perhaps a resident had dumped coffee grounds on the bush, changing the soil from alkaline to acid and steering this new blossom toward blue. Perhaps it was a separate plant altogether – a premise dismissed by the acid-alkaline crowd. Or perhaps – and I hope – it was simply a middle flower child looking for a way to make a statement.

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