Four ways to turn failure into success

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The phone rang.  It was my son.  I’ll admit.  I was worried.  He got home before us.   A call from him meant something unusual.  Our entire family went to a live interactive nativity experience in Racine, MO.  The twins left for home an hour before us. 

Worry morphed into panic and then dread as I listened.  Josiah told me something I didn’t want to hear.  Why?  I had already heard it twice before.   I was about to hear it for the third time.  This time it was worse.

“Mom, the high tunnels are gone.” He said as a matter of fact.

The news hit me like a gut punch.  The high tunnels are a passive green house to help us extend the garden growing season. 

Turn failure into success three caterpillar tunnels
Our first iteration of caterpillar tunnels

To be sure, our ride back to the farm felt like we were in a ship being tossed back and forth.  The wind was eerily strange. The gusts made it hard for my husband to control the car.  I gave the tunnels no thought.  Thoughts of baby Jesus, the shepherds, and the encounters with the Roman soldiers were still replaying in my mind.

Not. no. more.  My mind went blank. Then I stomped my foot on the floor board in exasperation.

I pummeled Josiah with questions starting with “What” and “Where”. 

It was too dark to see but one 32 foot tunnel was in our Amish neighbor’s pasture. They had no idea where the other tunnel landed.   Bizarre high wind gusts ripped the tunnel out of the ground and threw them into their pasture.

Failure strikes for the third time!

I will not lie.  It stung.  Moreover, it was embarrassing.  The tunnels were front and center on our farm.  Everyone nearby would see the results of our failure.  The Amish openly pride themselves in farming better than Englishers. We would be the talk of their community and a sermon illustration.  To be sure, our rural community would notice it too.  It’s hard not to since they were 32 feet long.

Further, it was financially devastating.  We built the tunnels with the profit from our market garden.  Do you know how many two to four dollar vegetable sales it took to build these tunnels?  Let’s just say it was a lot. We had already done it three times.  Mother Nature taught us to be more discerning when listening to You Tube channels.

Cleanup took place in biting cold weather.  And we discovered most of the materials were not salvageable.  A dark cloud hung over our family for a few weeks.  However, one theme continued that I did not expect.  That is, several discussions took place about

“the next time we build, we will…”

To be honest, I could not join my team in thoughts of a rebuild.  I was too busy doubting my capacity to lead or to make good decisions.

turn failure into success posing by the winter garden
Me sitting in the middle of my winter garden soon to be covered by our first caterpillar tunnel.

Yet as time passed, the need to rebuild violated my personal space and would not leave.

Failure as a fact of life

Failure is a fact of life.  We treat it as the elephant in the room.  It’s there but no one acknowledges it.  Social media emphasizes this unhealthy trend to share success and perfection only.

Still, we all know life is a mixture of success and failures. This journey hard work. So, what are we to do with failure?  Should you continue to treat it as the elephant in the room?  Some compensate by oversharing their failures.  We don’t want to do that. But keep in mind talking about failing is just that uncomfortable. Still, there is a healthy balance. We don’t have to ignore it and we don’t have to overshare.

Resist personalizing failure

Shifting our perspective on failure starts with disassociation.  Did you notice my response to the tunnel disaster?  I associated the outcome with my personal worth as a leader.  This response bogged me down.  My team was already trouble shooting.  Yet, I was stuck in pity party mode. 

To make progress two things had to occur.  Dissociation and remembering our rationale.

I had to disconnect the outcome from my personal worth.  Specifically, I made a mistake.  That does not mean I am a mistake.  There is a big difference. In fact, my research in the problem solving phase revealed countless examples of other farmers experiencing the exact same thing.  Get this.  Even one of my mentors shared a picture of his tunnel failure. The caption on his photo read “Whoops”. 

View obstacles as adventure

His attitude intrigued me.  Farming is an adventure in his mind.  Obstacles exist to conquer them. He routinely shared his failed projects with others.  Doing so invited them to participate in troubleshooting.  The result led to innovative tools for farm operations like mine.  Additionally, he referred to metal salvaged from failed tunnels as “materials from our experimental tunnels”.   The use of the word experimental tells us he understood failure might accompany the project.  Finally, he took materials from his failures and repurposed them.  Frankly, it’s brilliant.

Know your guiding principles. Know your why

Earlier, I said rebuilding invaded my personal space and wouldn’t leave.  We set a goal when building these tunnels. Revenue was not the driving force. Rather, value based principles guided this project. 

While rebuilding the tunnels, a customer shared, “Please let me know when you have produce again.  As soon as we stopped getting your vegetables, we all got sick.  I see the difference in our health eating farm fresh.”

turn failure into success grandson in cabbage patch
My grandson sitting in the cabbage patch, our fall garden.
turn failure into success  winter garden 2020
cabbage growing in the fall/winter garden 2020

This is one of the many reasons we commit to facing off with Mother Nature.  Offering nutrient dense produce makes a difference.  In fact, experts suggest that a healthy diet impacts skin care.  Surely, you can see why we offer both a market garden and wholesome skin care to our community. 

cauliflower does beautifully under a row cover in 2020

Universal application of farm failures

Farming provides rich life lessons about failure, perseverance, grit, and determination.  Those lessons are universal in nature.  Specifically, they apply to us all.

In summary, failure is a fact of life.  Viewing failure as an adventure gives way to an attitude of problem solving. Resist the urge to personalize failure to gain traction. Keep your principles for completing the task right in front of you. 

Finally, eat local nutrient dense food.  It will give you the stamina necessary to be more than a conqueror. Follow up by giving yourself the gift of self-care.  After all, every warrior needs pampering after an exhausting battle.

fall harvest of greens
Nutrient dense food enhances your skin care from the inside out.

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