Why I share my failures (and you should too)
In my humble opinion there are two distinct ways to live life in the ‘public eye’ (and let’s face it, every single one of us is in the public eye to some degree these days);
- Smile, suck it up and spruik about the pretty rainbows and unicorns
- Tell the truth about your life as an actual human
Let’s set one point straight at the outset – there is telling the truth and then there is word vomit. I’m not speaking of the latter (i.e. gushing your pain all over others at any given opportunity) and I’m NOT saying that you should avoid speaking of those unicorns.
I’m talking about the importance of acknowledging one’s failings as a real-life human in a day to day setting from time to time.
As a fledgling entrepreneur finding my feet in regional Australia in the late 1980s and early 1990s I distinctly recall the first time I was inspired in my business aspirations via a speech given by the CEO of Australia’s Wonderland – sure it’s not there anymore but that’s beside the point.
The speaker (I’ve no idea what his name was now) spoke of his failure in high school (big tick for me), his passion for business (double whammy) and his persistence to move forward no matter what (also sounded like me)
OK look, I concede that the rest of the content is blurry, for goodness sake it was 27 years ago. What I do remember is HOW the guy spoke and I can assure you, without doubt that this speech was from the heart.
It was the latter bit that struck me as something that was both unique to my experience and also something that I’d like to be part of who I am in business (and life).
Fast forward to 2019 and despite the fact that we’ve been enlightened by TED talks, the Oprah phenomena and an apparent destigmatisation of mental health, domestic violence and a plethora of other examples of the human condition WE ARE STILL FAKING IT.
How do I know this?
There are two ways…
Way 1: I look at the happy, smiley and usually positive stories that people in business are sharing via platforms such as LinkedIn, Instagram and to a lesser extent Facebook (and real life). Great! I think – you did something. But WHO ARE YOU?
Way 2: The litmus test – I tell the truth and on asking for feedback people often tell me that thing I posted / said / shared was… (there usually isn’t an actual word used at this point – more of a pursing of the lips and sucking in of the air through the teeth, sometimes accompanied by a discerning or sympathetic look). “Well” they may say should they choose words “I’m not sure if I’d be that open”. The advice is zen because truly I probably should not share a lot of the things I do.
I tell the truth about my failure (we could debate this failure as being mine or failure at all but for now let’s just call it my failure) for these reasons…
- Because people should never, ever think that success is something that happens instantly nor without hard work.
- Because people should never, ever think that anyone is immune to pain
- and because people really should not think that the abovementioned things happen to a certain part of society – and not others.
Most importantly, I tell the truth because I am a mother and I want my children to grow up in an environment that is real – not instagramable – despite the many, many instagramable moments that keep it snug.
So, fellow human. Do yourself a favour, do us all a favour and make a commitment to the truth. As you share the stories of your life remember to include the icky, the frustrated and the broken bits – and remember to tell us all how you moved beyond them. It doesn’t really matter who you are nor what you do, the truth (as they say) shall set you free – but not only you… those who follow in your footsteps as well.