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There’s No Such Thing as Failure…Only Feedback

Oops! A Mistake...Failure or Feedback?

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We all make mistakes.  Sometimes we miss a workout.  Sometimes we have that cookie we knew we really did not need or want.  Sometimes we just wanted those French fries.  These things happen, but the more important factor than the mistake itself is our RESPONSE to the mistake.  We can’t think of a single mistake to represent failure.  We must look at it as feedback and as an “improvement opportunity”.  Let me give you a very recent personal example (food-related discussion to follow):

I had my newsletter ready to go, chock full of articles, one of which was written by my friend and colleague Dwayne Brown.  I was excited to have everyone read the awesome article he wrote about things you can do to avoid the “I didn’t keep my resolution blues”.  The newsletter goes out (and gets posted to FB and Twitter) and then within a few minutes I get an email from a reader…the link went to the previous month’s article!

That’s never good news, especially when you are linking to someone else who has put in the time and effort to write for your newsletter (sorry Dwayne!).  So my mind started churning…I’ll copy the newsletter and send it out right away again with the updated link.  So within an hour of the first newsletter I sent another copy with the updated link.  But then I received the updated newsletter and saw that during my hasty editing process the font of one of the paragraphs changed (ironically, the one where I introduce Dwayne) so you could barely read it…if you had a magnifying glass!

Talk about frustrating!  There’s a lot of options we can do when we face a situation like this:

  1. Give up/Admit Failure

“Oh crap, no one’s going to want to read my newsletter anymore after this mistake, so I may as well stop writing it all together!”

  1. Ignore it

I could have just let it be the first time and not had anyone read Dwayne’s article or after the second issue I could have just let it be and said, “oh well, I tried”.)

  1. Blame someone or something else

Especially after the second issue with the formatting, it could have been really easy for me to blame the on-line document editor of my email communication service…and I did for about 5 seconds.  Then I realized I should have just taken an extra 15 seconds to re-review the entire newsletter to make sure everything else stayed the same and saved myself an extra half hour of work (see below).

It’s very easy to blame others, services or other events out of our control to make us feel better when something goes wrong or to justify why it’s ok that it went wrong.  But blaming rarely, if ever, improves our situation and often it makes us worse off with the people we were trying to help.  For me, that would be my readers and Dwayne.

  1. Accept it & Take Responsibility, Do as much Damage Control as Realistically Possible and Take Steps to Make Sure it Doesn’t Happen Again

So now I was in a bind.  I didn’t care about the perfection of my newsletter at this point.  Instead my foremost concerns were to:

  1. Make sure that Dwayne’s article was seen by as many people as possible

  2. Do not send a 3rd Newsletter which would have been quite intrusive on people’s inboxes

I chose (it’s all about choices!) to do 5 things:

  1. I updated my website so there was a direct link to Dwayne’s article from the previous month’s article where people were originally being referred to

  2. I created a 3rd newsletter, sent it only to myself and created a web link for it so people could click on the correct “version” of the newsletter.  I then posted THAT link to my Facebook and Twitter accounts.

  3. Emailed Dwayne to take responsibility and apologize for the mix-ups.

  4. Created a blog post about it to try to get Dwayne’s writing out there more and to hope that readers will learn a valuable lesson.

  5. Wrote a note to myself and posted it on my laptop where I write saying “Double Check ALL content and links before sending”

While this story has to do with a newsletter, do you see how this can apply when you “slip up” or “make a mistake” when it comes to your eating and physical activity habits?  If you make one non-ideal choice (like missing a workout or eating a cookie), does it make sense to give up on your entire health and fitness pursuits or journey?  Did you completely fail?  Or is this just one event to gain feedback from and improve upon?  Does it make any sense for me to stop writing my newsletter because I screwed up one link?  One link = one cookie.

You can ignore it, but that situation may come up again, and again, and again.  And then it’s no longer an isolated incident…it’s a pattern.  And patterns breed habits which breed results (for better or worse).  People may stop reading my newsletters if my links are broken EVERY month.  A broken link every newsletter = a few cookies every day = a pattern.

Do you blame the person who brought in the cookies or your boss who may have needed you to stay late and miss your workout?  You can, but what good does it do for you?  All it does is create stress and resentment…and that’s never helpful either.

So what can you do?

  1. Accept It & Take Responsibility – I ate that cookie or French fries myself.  No one force fed them to me.

  2. Damage Control – I can make-up the workout later today or later in the week.  I can make sure that I have a huge salad with dinner to fill me up on less calories.

  3. Take Steps to Make Sure it Doesn’t Happen Again – Create contingency workout plans for days you have to work late.  Ask your co-worker to not tell you about the free cookies she brings in.  Make sure you have a healthy, balanced snack so you aren’t tempted to have the French fries.

By taking ACTION on our mistakes and situations, we can rectify them, and maybe even make something better out of them.  I think I’ve advertised for Dwayne’s article about three or four times more now than had I just let the newsletter go out.  And just to be sure…check his article out here.  🙂

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