At work, I’m on the board of an organization that supports the advancement of women into senior positions in my federal agency. Some time in the next month, I am supposed to host an informal brown-bag on the topic of failure. Failure is a topic near and dear to my heart. Professional and personal failures have taught me lots. Sometimes I imagine developing an instruction manual for failure akin to the Handbook For The Recently Deceased in “Beetlejuice.”
There were two posts this weekend that piqued my interest in this regard. One was the Washington Post item April 25 about Martha Johnson, the former director of the General Services Administration who resigned in 2012 in the wake of a scandal. The other was a recently released study of professionalism in the U.S. military circa 1970. Two thoughts occur to me:
- Encountering professional near-death experiences at the beginning and middle of your career is a blessing, assuming you learn from your mistakes and the reactions of others. I am eager to read Martha Johnson’s book to see what her experiences were earlier in her career. The people I know who have suffered the worst from career catastrophe have been people who never crashed and burned until they were already in senior positions.
- Failing to analyze mistakes and missed opportunities is a major source of future failure. I recall participating in an exercise at the Army War College in 2000 and being blown away by the military culture of after-action reviews, in which all parties were encouraged to discuss what went right and wrong in a given activity. I don’t know how many of the recommendations from the study were implemented, but I wonder how many federal agencies have undertaken similar studies.
I would love to hear about personal or institutional episodes of failure and recovery from your experiences. Will you share?
First there was Easter. Easter went reasonably well. Actually, all but one of the Four Conditions For A Happy Holiday were met. Ma Protosaur, aka my mother, wound up in the ER after breaking a bone in her hand at our house in the wee hours of Good Friday. This did not prevent her or us* from traveling to West Virginia to visit my grandfather or from enjoying Easter Dinner at my sister’s house.
This week got off to a weak start. I’ve never been allergy-prone, but whatever was blooming Monday last affected me like the poppy field in “Wizard of Oz.” I think I slept for a total of 24 hours or so between mid-afternoon Monday and Wednesday morning.
Yesterday I switched out my cold-weather wardrobe for my warm-weather wardrobe and scoured the floor of our basement cold room. Our elderly housecat recently decided that certain concrete surfaces of the cold room floor are preferable to her litter box and its eco-friendly mix of pine, cedar, and corn litter. Three hours and an extra litter box with conventional litter later, she reconsidered. Thus my home looks like hell today, but it smells a lot better. Recommendations for eco-friendly litter that feels like kitty qwik-crete would be most welcome.
* One of the reasons that the Dino Marriage has survived this long (17 years in May) is the fact that we stopped undertaking long-distance family travel together in year seven or so. We do not function well in tandem when in close quarters, physical discomfort, and the presence of kids and extended family. So I travel with the Dino Kids solo, and he stays behind lest Babushka require his support.
Today I will ridding Mouse’s room of all the clothes that don’t fit her or fit her a little too well for my comfort. Oh, my blooming Mouse! She shot up two shoe sizes a week or so ago (now rocking a women’s size 10 shoe at the majestic 11 year-old height of 5’4″) and went shopping in her aunt’s closet last week with great delight. She will probably find herself with a whole bunch of new drawer space by day’s end. I am still holding out hope that she did not inherit the giant freak feet that plague me, her uncle, and her cousin, but so far the signs are not super-encouraging.
I called in sick today because I did not feel well. Then I fled my house before the kids got home so I could
mope convalesce without interruption loving attention from my children. My professional personal brand today is Schleprock and my personal personal brand today is Peggy Bundy-meets-Amy from “Big Bang Theory.”
(My blogging brand today is Too Lazy To Post Pix Of Pop Culture References In Post.)
(I was recently trapped in a hotel room overnight with the TV tuned to TBS reruns of “Big Bang Theory,” which I had never watched at any length. I feel about it kind of like I feel about the Harry Potter novels – I recognize its merit on its own terms, but I do not need to read/watch further. And why must all the brainiac girls in these things be such uptight strivers, anyway?)