My family motto for 2015 was “A year of failure.” For those that missed the post it wasn’t claiming failure, rather, giving the permission to ourselves to try new things and say it’s okay if we fail. I thought it was clever, but turned out to be a very difficult concept to explain to the visitors standing in our living room staring with confused looks on their face reading the chalk board above our breakfast bar that clearly says, “2015 — A year of failure.” Perhaps attempting to explain that was our first of many failures for the year. “No, no, no, it’s not a year of failure, it’s a year of failure.” Frustration only grew as any attempted explanation to the confusion resulted in a slight head-cock to the left. “So you want to fail this year?” Sigh. I can only imagine that if they were a dog, their ears would raise above their head in a curious fashion. Like a mnemonic for your own name…I suppose you either get it or you don’t.
If you do happen to get it and have never given yourself the freedom to fail, try it sometime. The caveat is the depression that comes on December 31st as you recount the events of the past year and realize the failures do in-fact far outweigh the successes and what little success you did have seems insignificant.
I started out this year applying for a job to feel out the field and see if there was anything out there for me. I believe I received an offer from every job I applied to (success). I think my favorite was the company that said, “well, we’ve closed the hiring positions, ran across your resume…and then there’s you.” That so summed up how I feel at times. I just don’t fit into the mold, whatever mold that may be that society tries to impose on what a normal life should be. I ended up accepting a well-paid position — they were offering me everything I asked for and then some (success). A contract that I was currently under, and was under the verbal agreement of ending, decided to be a [tact fails me here] and through a conflict of interest I had to turn down the position (fail).
I picked myself up, said okay, I’ll finish this contract with dignity. Long story short, contract was abruptly terminated a couple weeks later (fail). No job, no contract, I applied for a position in Sydney, Australia with a large company. Before my second interview, the recruiter says, “you did poorly in your first interview, I don’t want to waste your time but I’ll keep you on for this interview and see how it goes if you want. Perhaps it’s just a misunderstanding between Americans and Australians (fail).” Five interviews later, and the recruiter is having a department open a special position for me in their coveted Growth Hacking department. “Generally people get promoted to the Growth Hackers, but everyone has loved you and wants you in there, so I’m requesting they open a special spot for you in their budget (success).” I suppose he could have said, then there’s people like you. My wife also had a job offer on the table at the same time and after much deliberation we decided it best to stick around Sacramento (success/fail).
I started doing freelance web development again with high hopes of growing my business and taking on some employees this year. I signed a few good-sized contracts (success), left a lot on the table (fail), and ultimately failed to grow the way I hoped (fail) leaving a lot of uncertainty for the coming year.
My wife and I decided to try and have a kid this year. It would be the only year we would try. She did some amazing ovulation tracking as we got it first go around (success). I mark that as a success as we succeeded in something we were trying, certainly to no merit of our own, but I also have to chalk that up to a failure as I abandoned many of my own personal ideologies (fail). I can only hope that one day I’ll be able to adequately explain that to my child. Until that day comes, I’ll enjoy the time I have with them.
I created a website called Money Share in which I hoped to crowdsource our student loans. We had a couple people generously donate to the cause (success), but surprisingly got quite a bit of outspoken criticism. Our goal was to raise $68,000. We didn’t come anywhere close (fail). The site was a prelude to an article that I wrote for the Sacramento Bee talking about student loans and the high-cost of living. It was published (success) but also drew large criticism (fail). I was encouraged that another article dealing with the same issues was published next to mine — obviously real concerns for many. My take away from this experience is two-fold: 1) people are less likely to give to a cause they have either gone through and overcome or are currently dealing with (take care of numero uno first); and 2) people are really uncomfortable with personal transparency. I have no scientific data to backup these statements and I’m just running on my own tail-wind conclusions. Should be a fun project for someone though, to validate or invalidate. I do take joy in knowing these statements will find their way in a college paper as profound fact. I find point one interesting as my initial thoughts would be that people would have empathy. No such luck.
Was able to speak to our church about refugees which turned out to be timely given all the coverage on the refugees lately (success). Though this was a semi-success as Amy was the one that was asked to speak and when she couldn’t make the speaking engagement, I was reluctantly asked to be the de facto replacement. Regardless, it was good opportunity to work on my public speaking (success).
We helped lead a young married’s group. I’ll say it was a success despite it being made abundantly clear that Amy is the favored spokesperson in our family. When asked why I don’t do more I can simply reply, “Roger says…” [I do hope Roger reads this :) No hard feelings. ].
I summited Mount Shasta at an arguable 14,180 feet — higher than my sky-dive I might add (success).
I took up building furniture (success). My projects included a bed frame with dove-tailed drawers, shelves from reclaimed wood, and an antique-finished trunk.
I proposed a fitness equipment addition to our local park’s board and am now co-chairing a committee to raise funds and implement the project. Stay tuned to see if that’s a success for a failure.
Amy and I tried to personally invest in a supposed homeless person. While he does seem to be doing better, it feels that our attempts at help have been to no avail (fail). We’ve spent time and money over the past six months trying to connect him with the right people and this has been frustrating. It’s certainly easier to throw a few dollars the “problem” and walk away. Unfortunately for me, I just can’t shake the feeling that Jesus wants us to do more.
Tried to do a budget, especially for food. I think our food bill actually increased (fail).
I submitted some of my work for awards. They got nominated (success) but did horribly in the voting stage (fail).
We set out to build more meaningful friendships. We did that (success).
I challenged a group of people to memorize the book of James in the Bible (fail). In doing so, I felt it only right that I do it myself, and I did (success).
Thinking back over the year, there’s nothing significant that stands out to me. Perhaps my greatest failure of the year is that I didn’t take greater risks. I had given myself the opportunity to surf big waves (figuratively) and was only able to bring myself out knee deep. What’s the point of having a surfboard if you can still feel the sand below you? I want to play where the water is deep in the unknowns.
Ironically, it’s those unknowns that have made me fear the coming year. Our family is growing, contracts are uncertain, Amy’s taking the year off, etc. Leading me to a semi-depressed, contemplative state this past week. I love when the right person walks into your life and says the right thing at the right time. My dear friend Gabe and I meet for coffee on Thursdays, and I really treasure our conversations. Today was one of those days especially. As I was lamenting these feelings to him, he totally got where I was coming from and expressed a similar place he had been in. He was asking someone, “what’s next?” and the person replied, “do it better.” Don’t change what you are doing, just do it better.
That’s it, that’s the take away message for me. I tried some different things this year and was semi-successful at others. In general, I’m good at what I do, but 2016 needs to be about me doing what I do even better. Whether that’s my relationship with God, family, conversations, helping others, work, or anything else, I need to do it better. When Leonardo Di Vinci was nearing his death, he was asked if he had any regrets. He replied that he wished he had worked harder. I’ve always felt that was a statement regarding his inventions and what we consider to be his physical work. Today I like to think that he meant he wished he had worked harder at doing all things in life better.
For my family, 2016 is a year to do it better.