What failing can teach you about freedom

Brainstorming sessions are meant to be freeing – an opportunity to say anything, do anything, question anything, and yet there’s been some interesting research suggesting that people produce less ideas in a brainstorming session than they might if working alone.

We at Sister Leadership have a guess as to why this may be: failure is a type of shame that can paralyse both the body and the mind. So when Lisa Millar, featured in this week’s Women Emerging in Business Series for Sister Leadership, revealed that it was failure which set her free – further explanation was required.

How can someone experience failure as a freeing sensation? And can we get a slice of that “doesn’t matter so long as I’m learning” pie too? Reading her story below, I’m beginning to realize that yes, we can redefine failure.

“We had  a coaching  session around being yourself, and it’s okay if people don’t like you – so it was very freeing.”

Lisa cites a great example for how failure actually led to her improvement. She enrolled in an online humour in fiction writing class. “I was terrible. My husband, he says to me one day, ‘you are so good at your other stuff, you know I could see it being in a magazine, but just not this’. So all of a sudden I thought, I am crap – fantastic! Because I don’t have to be anything now. I can just blunder as much as I want. And I did, I just kept blundering: I handed in my assignments late, I didn’t even edit them and I didn’t care. It was fun! And that is why I got to play and experiment, which let me to a really good funny story.”

Your take away: Admitting you don’t know or aren’t good makes space for you to get better. Failure is an opportunity, not a shut-down.

“The more I move away from that ‘what will people think’ part of myself, the more contact I make with my authentic and true self, and the faster that feeling seems to be erased. It’s okay now if someone were to say to me, ‘I really don’t like how you did that, or how you do that’, or ‘No, I don’t think I want you to do it.’ I don’t internalize that like I would have a few years ago. I don’t have to put up any kind of protection.”

It’s not to say this came immediately, Lisa admits that she used to “ feel that I really had to be portrayed as smart,” but through working with her coach, Camille Boivin, President of Sister Leadership, she’s learned to not internalize other people’s differences in opinion.

Your take away: Like a duck in water, other people reactions can slide off your back. This take time and effort, but as we see from Lisa it’s totally achievable. And once achieved, failure becomes another word for ‘learning’ – and there’s nothing wrong with learning.

Lisa went on to have her short-story well received and accepted for publication in an upcoming anthology. So you see? Experimentation isn’t failure. And neither is admitting you don’t know everything. Once you’ve shaken off that pressure, just imagine how using your skills unabashed could work within a team.

We’re taking a break for the weekend, but join us next Monday for more of Lisa’s journey and insights. See you next week.


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