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I have a horse, Wolfie, who I rescued and started to train when he was very young. I was incompetently incompetent, see Dunning Krueger effect, but I’ve had him for 9 years now, learned a lot and we started accomplishing some of my big goals in 2016.

Flash forward to August 2017, while at a small show. In what I thought would be my “warm up” round…. A picture is worth a thousand words.



I went home dejected, and sore and realized that I really hadn’t been that engaged lately. Was I riding 5x a week, yes. Was I practicing 5x a week…..No. So after the soreness wore off I went “back to work” practicing, setting up jumps, taking lessons, seeking coaching, etc. Falling off turned out to be a fantastic motivator.


Tom Watson, of IBM, was quoted to say “the fastest way to succeed is double your failure rate”. Most assume that this is because you are “testing” more options and therefore have more opportunities to succeed. But could there also be a human reaction to the failures? Something innate that makes people engage? And if that is true, how do we create environments where failure begets engagement? I have a few thoughts on that.


  • First, we must continue to create cultures, in our organizations and our teams, that welcome failure. A key part to achieving this is leadership, in all forms, welcoming and even praising risks and failures. Which leads me into my second point


  • We must share our failures. I recently witnessed a colleague, whom I greatly respect, share about a very recent failure at work to an audience of 100+ people. Hearing her share openly about this convinced me I could write this blog…. And share that embarrassing photo.


  • Finally, we need to think about our internal dialogue about failure. How do we process our own failures? Do we criticize ourselves? Do we act like it didn’t happen? Do we blame others? We need to have an inner dialogue that sees failure as a chance to reflect and grow. My first reaction after “eating dirt” was to think "maybe I should take up tennis" but after a reflection I saw this as an opportunity to “re-engage”.


What are your experiences with this? What do you think organizations can do to create environments where failure leads to engagement.


I am happy to report, with my increased engagement efforts, Wolfie and I were able to finish the show season on a high note and have more than enough to keep us busy in the off-season.