Learning from Failing

Learning from Failing

Concert Audience and Stage

I have been listening to the Cautionary Tales podcast all year long as I drive with my 10 year old son to and from his Saturday Art of Problem Solving program. The delivery and style of the stories create both and emotional and intellectual response of joy and satisfaction; frequently mingled with discomfort, sadness, longing, and pathos. This Saturday we listened to another episode and it was no different. Except it was.

The episode, Bless the Coal-Black Hearts of the Broadway Critics, didn’t only explore a Cautionary Tale so that we might learn from it and avoid the pitfalls ourselves; but it also continued the story to show how with courage, humility, creative problem solving, and the right feedback loops, you can recover from failure and create success. This is a story of doing and learning, and doing again.

So yes, the Cautionary Tale is that ignoring problems and “following a plan” can lead to exceptional public failures. Or at least that’s the obvious one.

From Chicago preview disaster to Broadway success and Tony triumph, the podcast tells the story of the creation of
Movin’ Out

There is a second Cautionary Tale in the second act of this story that shows the recovery and ultimate success: viewing a “magnificent failure” as terminal, also terminates a world of creative possibilities that are otherwise inaccessible; but if you want to walk the creative path through failure, you’ll need the support of family and friends, the determination to overcome the naysayers and those attached to the status quo, and an unyielding faith that things will turn out in the end.

Which, of course, really stood out to me because it is another story illustrating the power one of my two anchoring core values, The Stockdale Paradox:

You must maintain unwavering faith that you can and will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties, and at the same time, have the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.

The Stockdale Paradox
as described by Jim Collins in Good to Great

For the purpose of me remembering it myself, I’ve internalized as, “You must confront the brutal facts of your current reality while also having an unyielding faith that things will turn out in the end.”

If you listen to the podcast episode, which I’m sure you’ll enjoy, you’ll get a fuller sense and more visceral understanding of these Cautionary Tales and their application to your endeavors.

Sean Kennedy

The creator of "Whatever The Heck That Means" can usually be found with his wife and two sons in their adopted home of North Carolina. From there he is the Founder and President of Simbiotrek, LLC (https://simbiotrek.com), and makes occasional digital imprints on LinkedIn (https://linkedin.com/in/seanpk) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/AkaMacGyver).

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