The problem-free philosophy

Thoughts that keep me up at night #2

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Not crying over spilled milk.

I’m starting tonight’s newsletter off with failure. Not just what my mom thinks of me in my current self-employed situation but failure in everyday life. Failure, in my eyes, is not expecting the unexpected then allowing it to ruin the rest of your day. Like when you think you can carry all the groceries in one trip only to have the milk carton rip through the bag, spilling all over the concrete entrance of your apartment building while your neighbors are watching from their balcony. That small thing is enough to mess my day up but it shouldn’t!

Accidents (or the unexpected) happen all the time. They are things that happen outside of your control. Ethereal (M-W word of the day - check!) occurrences that remind you of the phrase you used to use a lot when you were a kid - "Hakuna Matata".

It means no worries.

As long as you’ve got your health, friends, family, pets and hobbies, you’re good! Now, you have a common memory that you can bring up the next time you see your neighbor and have a good joke about it. So quit worrying about your failures and focus on showing your strengths.

Applications to professional life.

Let’s say your project lead, Bob, is expecting to report analytical results to executive stakeholders this Friday. After working tirelessly all week, you and Bob have successfully presented to the executives. You go back to your analysis and realize that you used the wrong variable in your analysis so your results completely false. Dread and panic flood into your thoughts. “What do I do?”

Accidents/Mistakes/Failures - whatever you want to call them - happen at anytime to anyone and anywhere. So don’t dwell on it. The worst thing that you can do to yourself is dwelling on your mistakes after you’ve learned how and why they happen. Do yourself a favor and repeat “Hakuna Matata”. It’s okay!

Calm your breathing and let the fight or flight adrenaline response ride it’s course through you. Then, focus on the issue at hand. What needs to be communicated? How should it be communicated? You will be the one that will be communicating the mistake as you are accountable for the results and you will also be the one that will be providing the answer to the inevitable question: how can we make sure this doesn’t happen again? Executives should be understanding of mistakes since they make them all the time! They’re human as well and they had to make their fair share of mistakes to get to where they currently sit.

For the rest of your days.

I understand that there may be incredibly stressful situations like when your job is on the line or when your loan payments are due and you don’t have enough money. After all, not all mistakes are created equal (see strategies recommended by Harvard Business Review for dealing with failure). However, you can always find another job, make more money and get your credit score back up. What I am promoting here is to look out for yourself first - always (as I type this out 1 am into Monday morning). Look out for your health, look out for your friends and keep learning. So the next time you go grocery shopping, you will think twice and double bag the milk instead of leaving yourself a sobbing and embarrassed mess in front of your neighbors…for a second time.

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