Monthly Archives: April 2012

Failure Is Not An Option

A few months ago, I saw the young lady pictured to the left at the Calgary airport. I was so impressed with the message of her sweatshirt that I asked for her permission to snap the picture. She was delighted to oblige.

The word “Failure” is a little subjective; perhaps having a little different meaning to everyone; though any definition is still unseemly when contrasted with a word like “success”. To me failure simply means that we didn’t measure up to our original expectations. In school we expect to get good grades if we put in the effort; but sometimes our work doesn’t meet the expectation of the professor or class standards, and we fail. At work, we have expectations in regards to many metrics, and when we don’t measure up, to the degree we didn’t, we fail.

The reason I loved the message on the sweatshirt is that it clearly states that the option of failure is not in this young ladies vocabulary. Just the thought of this powerful statement tells me that regardless of the effort required, this IS the effort to be put forth so that failure is not an option. Though avoiding failure may not be the best reason for motivation (striving for excellence puts a more positive spin on it), yet its tone insinuates that unless we succeed in our quest, there are consequences that will bring dastardly results.

Benjamin Franklin, in his quest for perfection, found it daunting. He told a story relating to this that is worth pondering in our own quest to not consider failure an option:

“My faults vexed me so much that I made little progress and had such frequent lapses that I was almost ready to give up the attempt and content myself with a faulty character in that respect. Like the man who in buying an axe of a smith, desired to have the whole of its surface as bright as the edge, the smith consented to grind the man’s axe bright for him if he would turn the wheel. This he did while the smith pressed the broad face of the axe heavily on the stone which made the turning very fatiguing. The man stopped every now and then to see how much progress had been made and at length would take his axe as it was without further grinding. ‘No’, said the smith, ‘turn on, turn on, we shall have it bright by and by”. As yet it was only speckled.’ ‘Yes,’ said the man, but I think I liked a speckled axe best.’ And I believe this may be the case with many who, having for want of some such means as I employed, found the difficulty of obtaining good and breaking bad habits, had given up the struggle and concluded that a speckled axe was best after all.”

So we perhaps fail only when we give up. And while it is not an option (to fail), it is nonetheless only as avoidable as our efforts to thwart that failure.

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Posted by on April 30, 2012 in Uncategorized


Take a Stand

Last year one of our corn crops was infested by the corn root worm. This pest is generally a result of greed, when farmers decide to not rotate the corn crop as often as they should due to the bounty to be made on high corn prices.

It was too late to apply insecticides, so we chopped a lot of the field for cattle silage about two months before we would have normally taken the harvest. Had we been wise, we would have rotated the crop sooner and reduced the chance of this problem.

When most of the corn was harvested early, there stood one lone stock. Proud, and resolute.

I was struck by this survivor and thought deeply about the stand we must take in a world of shifting values. What happens in our corporate world when the only emphasis is the bottom line? How long before the workers are infected with an attitude of non-committal routines that simply accomplish the work before them while secretly dreaming much bigger? When do you sacrifice some profit to build a larger base of support even in times of uncertainty? What is it that motivates the rank and file? Is it squeezing the last ounce of profit from the machine? NOT if the last ounces of profit only go to benefit the top leaders, and don’t go to benefit the roots of the organization.

I believe the values behind the actions we take are most important. IF we take a stand, even though the masses want us to join the path of least resistance; we take the high ground and our values then create the opportunities wherein every member of the team buys in to the end. The result is long term success, happier environments in which we work and play, and a confidence that only comes from doing the right thing regardless of what the world would say.

1. Will my decision be the same regardless of the amount of money involved?

2. How will the associates I lead be happier because I thought of them and not just of myself?

3. If I make a promise, written or verbal, will I stand by it? Even if it is a little less profitable in the                         short run?

4. If I am required to change course and it adversely affects some of the team, do I take a stand and                    do everything in my power to minimize human suffering?

5. What do we do to inculcate the highest values, sharpen and apply them, and live them from day                       to day?

I have seen first -hand the pain of selfish decisions. I have been on the receiving end of decisions that are short sighted and have caused me personal pain. The best advice I can give is to decide to live the values you know are right, regardless of what the world or our selfish voices say so we can avoid the costly mistakes of greed. I can attest from my farming experience it is not worth it. Be like the lone stalk of corn after the harvest……


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Posted by on April 10, 2012 in Uncategorized