Two things happened in the last week that reminded me about a lesson we all like to lecture on but generally suck at executing. Before I get to that, here are the two things.
First, a new client of mine managed to make it through a very difficult bushwhack last weekend that I knew would be well beyond her expertise. But she wanted to do it and who was I to stop her. Besides, we all need a little reality check at times and we can only ever set the bar higher when we step out of the reality that exists only in our own heads. She committed, showed up, struggled through, and for 36 hours put one foot in front of the other. That’s what you do. She hurt, but so be it.
The second thing is a little raunchier and I don’t mean to offend but makes an important point. A lawyer friend attended a Pre-Valentine’s Day lust party, featuring all things lusty and sexy. During the party, the host announced that there would be a contest for best strip dance. (If this is a thing at parties now, I have apparently missed it.) A temporary poll had been set up to encourage partyers to let loose their inner stripper. Naturally, my friend was game.
So, the slow and sultry music starts. The tight red shirt comes off. Then the top button on the leather pants comes unbuttoned, the zipper comes unzipped … and things took a wild turn when, with a full head of steam and energy in his limbs, our dancer took a swing around the temporary pole – which promptly gave way to send flying said dancer into the wall and crumbling to the floor. (This was the point in this ridiculous but instructive story where I recalled Jamie Lee Curtis springing back to life after falling from the bedpost in that corny but entertaining Schwarzenegger movie, True Lies, in what remains a classic movie striptease.) The audible gasps were followed by the “OMG are you OKs?” Without losing too many beats, the up and comer dancer popped back up as if nothing had happened and kept on trucking. Dancing. Swinging. Whatever. And he won the title of Male Stripper Champ 2016.
The lesson here is the oft-repeated message that says the only failure is in the failure to try. It’s the effort, we say, not the winning or losing.
The principle is dead on, but what gives it color is the quality of the effort? Does giving it a shot once and throwing in the towel cut it? If you try something and succeed, well, then, that is fantastic. If you try and fail … does that count as succeeding? In my book, it’s the quality of the effort that defines the answer. A half-assed effort doesn’t cut it, giving it a shot once and throwing in the towel doesn’t cut it, and constantly telling yourself you know better and you’ll figure it out on your own doesn’t cut it. But then how many times do you give it a try? Dunno. It’s a question for each of us to answer. (See the reference to Yoda below.)
The truth is most of us hate to fail (however we define it) and worse many hang tight to the idea that people who succeed (however they define that) are extra-talented and extra-lucky. Not true. They are simply better at crumbling to the floor and getting up. They simply know how to show up and put one foot in front of the other more often than others do.
When Yoda told us to, “Try not. Do … or do not; there is no try” I don’t think he meant you had to get it instantly correct. It doesn’t mean getting it right immediately. It means doing it until it is done. Trying until it is done. That is doing.
The constant getting back up is hard. That is where you’ll need to reach for whatever good you do have in your life to find the gumption to keep dancing, bushwhacking or whatever it is you need to do to get it done. Today’s a special day, so maybe one thing you can reach for is all the love you have in your life to help you find the stamina.
Happy Valentine’s Day.