There's incredible wisdom in putting yourself on a path where success is possible. You may not be able to control the outcome, but you can control the conditions that will often determine the outcome--such as the people you work with, the city where you live, or the time a product is released. One of the main reasons people don't find success is simply because they are not on the right path. They get stuck somewhere hoping that success comes up the road, lumbering along like a FedEx delivery truck without realizing that FedEx doesn't even deliver on this route.

In other words, they accept failure. They live with it, breathe it in, swallow it whole, wear it as a badge of honor, and they like how it looks in a mirror. I've learned recently that the word "failure" is part of the problem. It's a word that sometimes gets stuck in our mental pathways. Those who have taken up residency in the same vicinity as failure don't ever move and, more importantly, they get accustomed to the feeling. It creeps in at the door and then takes root. They seem to like it.

I've been learning about failure this spring as I've embarked on two different (but somewhat related) projects at my house. One is to plant a massive garden. Now, I'm not a gardener--I grew up in a suburb of Minneapolis. We planted flowers near a sidewalk and called it a garden. If you wanted to go a bit rustic you'd head to a farmer's market and buy freshly-grown squash. I don't have a green thumb. It's a little blackened by toner ink and the grime from a keyboard.

Yet, I wanted to test some soil sensors that connect to a wireless hub. They collect information about the soil and whether I've been watering enough. I've had to learn some finer details about seed germination. (Who knew that lightning from a storm releases nitrogen into the air to spark growth? I must have missed that lecture in science class.) I educated myself as much as possible, and then I took the plunge...about two weeks too early. My seeds never germinated and I had to start over. What is that called again? Oh yeah, it's called failure. But I don't see it that way.

A better word is "growth" when it comes to a setback on the way to success. I like that word much better. My seeds didn't grow, but I grew in my knowledge of gardening. I also learned that I may need to add more compost, that some of my plans for squash and strawberries may not work out. I had to grow before I could find success. I had to change my perspective, my level of knowledge, my understanding of the gardening process, and my time schedule. I had to accept that the failure was a teaching moment. Most importantly, I had to accept a need for growth in myself.

My other project is to get those sensors working with the hub. It's surprisingly similar to my lesson about early spring gardening. The sensors connect using a Wi-Fi signal, but it won't quite stretch to the back of my house. I got stuck on the project because I refused to move some of the sensors. I left them in a place where they won't ever work. The only way to find success was to move some of them closer together, but I liked where I had installed them. I didn't want to start over, I didn't want to learn, I didn't want to do any of the hard work. I liked not working hard.

Then, I decided to do something. I moved some of the sensors and (if you must know) added a Wi-Fi booster. Suddenly everything worked. Success! When I made some more radical changes in the location of each sensor, they all connected.

My biggest lesson on both of these projects is that we tend to accept our present condition. We plant ourselves down firmly on a road that doesn't lead anywhere, we refuse to stand up and make a big change and rip out the cords and start over. We like not growing. A better definition of "failure" is a refusal to grow and change.

Let's assume the mirror is staring back at you right now. You like how failure looks. You've accepted it. You're accustomed to it. Your seeds are planted, your sensors are installed. But what if you need a reboot? Until you change, until you grow, until you accept blame--well, you might not find success. In what areas do you need to grow in order to learn a lesson? What needs to change in order for the path to stop winding around in a circle? I know what I need to do. I need to become more diligent and disciplined about my garden now that I've replanted. And, I need to realize that, especially in technology, you sometimes have to rip out the cords.

It's a tough lesson, but if we don't learn it, we'll stay stuck.

If you have a specific lesson you're learning, drop me a line. I'm curious to hear about what kind of garden you're trying to grow in your own life. Spill the beans.

Published on: May 10, 2016
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