When failure is part of the rules

A few weeks ago, a woman in one of my workshops raised her hand and asked a very important question: “Are you telling us that it’s okay to fail?”

A group of incredibly smart, focused, and skilled future leaders was confused. No one had ever given them permission to fail before.

I told her what one of my mentors, Randy Nelson told me: life is not about error avoidance, it’s about error recovery.

I wasn’t actually encouraging them to fail, I simply encouraged this group to change their reaction to failure.

Most of us fail inward – meaning, our bodies tense up, we get smaller and we let the world know that we are ashamed.

Improvisers practice what same may see as a silly exercise called the “Failure Bow” – we turn failure from an inward defeat to an outward celebration. This small practice helps us act the way we want to feel.

Seth Godin speaks brilliantly about failure, here in this interview. Some of the highlights:

  • those who fail more often, win – The people who don’t win are the ones that don’t fail at all and get stuck, or the ones that fail so big that they don’t get to play again.
  • What are the risks that you can take that keep you in the game even if you fail?
  •  Following the rules can lead to a fear of initiation and a fear of failure. Where can you work where failing is part of the rules?

The concept of embracing failure is broad and confusing for some – depending on your profession, and your past experience. This concept is also juicy and full of connection to vulnerability, innovation, creativity, you name it.

Simply put…error recovery builds resilience, it provides a new kind of reward…perhaps one that we aren’t teaching or recognizing enough.

 

What matters to you? Seth Godin’s 140-second challenge

What do you care about? You have 140 seconds to share it with a room full of strangers. Ready, go!

Last night in NYC I took part in a noble experiment by marketing and creativity author and guru Seth Godin.

As part of the release effort for his latest book, he let out a rally cry for individuals to get together and share their passion.

The event provided a unique and thrilling opportunity to be vulnerable, courageous, succinct, clear, and focused…in 140 seconds. This may sound difficult to some of us, but we’re each given numerous opportunities throughout the year, week or even day to present what matters to us in a clear and hopefully, authentic way. Why not practice?

 

I’m curious to know what you would talk about in your 140 seconds?

I challenged myself to improvise much of my talk but here’s what I ended up saying:

My name is Lindsey, and I am an Improviser. Usually when I tell people this, especially if I am outside of New York, I hear one of three reactions:

“Oh, you must be funny, then”, or “Is that like, ‘Whose Line is It Anyway?'”, or “I could never do that”.

Here’s a secret. Everyone is an Improviser. Everyone in this room is an Improviser. No one has a script when they get up in the morning.

But here’s how I really know that everyone in this room tonight is an Improviser. Improvisers are really good at doing these 3 things:

  1. Taking Risks
  2. Embracing Failure
  3. Saying YES to opportunities 

Everyone in this room took a risk to come here tonight. Everyone who got up here and shared their art is embracing failure, and everyone said yes to an opportunity even if they were unsure of what this was. 

5 years ago, almost to this day, I took my first Improv class. Now I work with corporations, teams, and individuals to help them cultivate their inner improviser because I believe that these skills matter. Imagine what the world would look like if everyone learned these skills? Well, I imagine it would be similar to this room here tonight, a room full of people who took risks, embraced failure or re-defined what ‘failure’ meant, and said yes to opportunities. I’m really excited about that world.

My hope for today is that when you leave this room tonight you’ll help someone else unleash and embrace their inner improviser, that you’ll keep taking risks and saying yes to new things, and exercising the muscle that brought you here tonight – then maybe someday we’ll have the courage to throw away the script. 

What’s the drill – July 5: Three questions to help you know your audience

What’s in it for them?

Are you asking this question enough…and is this the first thing you lead with at the start of a program or a pitch?

To successfully market and reach your participants, and those who decide whether or not to give the go-ahead to your program, we have to not only say, but show what’s in it for them… all the while using their language to get the message across.

What does success look like for them?

How you market a program to an engineer will be different from a sales executive.  It can be a different language altogether. There will be biases and assumptions and expectations you can’t always control.  To help break through, seek out what success looks like for them, while being as specific as possible. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

What is their objective?

Everyone has an objective. Is it just compliance – or something deeper? Let’s hope for the latter. Here, Seth Godin provides helpful reminders on learning the worldviews of your participants. Are they batman types or superman types?

It’s nearly impossible to sell an idea or a concept to everyone at the same time. Adjust your story and approach to fit your audience, speak their language and always focus on what’s in it for them.

But, says Godin… “Instead of trying to delight everyone in Gotham City, it pays to find people who already resonate with the story you want to tell”. Yes, AND to that!

The five-word secret to building better connections

The secret to successful human interactions is hopefully not a secret, but a way of life.

On a stage, Improvisers drill and practice this “secret”, to form a new habit and a way of interacting on stage that builds support and trust amongst individuals and teams.

The secret?  Make your partner look good.

From customers to clients, friends, co-workers, hiring managers, and partners your job on stage and off is to make the other person look good – especially when you are interacting with someone new.

It’s a fundamental switch from ‘what’s in it for me’ to, ‘what can I do to help and support you’ because those who know this secret also realize that if I make you look good, we all look good, and that the efforts of a team are more important than the individual.

This post from Seth Godin skillfully highlights the hierarchy of business to business needs. Whether you are trying to help someone avoid risk, avoid hassle, or gain praise in business interactions, the focus remains on helping to make them look good.

To understand their needs is to empathize, listen, and help make them look not just good…but spectacular. For, when your number one job, on stage or off, is to support your fellow team members, well, you’ve got the secret to a winning team.

“Yes” is the new normal – via Seth Godin

Seth’s Blog: The coalition of No.

The coalition of No

“It’s easy to join.

There are a million reasons to say no, but few reasons to stand up and say yes.

No requires just one objection, one defensible reason to avoid change. No has many allies–anyone who fears the future or stands to benefit from the status quo. And no is easy to say, because you actually don’t even need a reason.

No is an easy way to grab power, because with yes comes responsibility, but no is the easy way to block action, to exert the privilege of your position to slow things down.

No comes from fear and greed and, most of all, a shortage of openness and attention. You don’t have to pay attention or do the math or role play the outcomes in order to join the coalition that would rather things stay as they are (because they’ve chosen not to do the hard work of imagining how they might be).

And yet the coalition of No keeps losing. We live in a world of yes, where possibility and innovation and the willingness to care often triumph over the masses that would rather it all just quieted down and went back to normal.

Yes is the new normal. And just in time.”