Reading the Margins

When I read a book I always have a pen or pencil in hand.  I underline and write in the margins leaving my thoughts and questions along the way.  This helps me scan back over a book and remember all those important points that I’ve most likely already forgotten.

Yesterday I dug through the shelves to find a book I wanted to loan to a friend.  As I often do, I scanned the notes I’d left in the margins before sending it on its way and I came across this –

I’ve always appreciated this definition of failure: “to succeed at something that doesn’t really matter.”  If you exert all your might to climb a tall ladder but it’s leaning against the wrong wall, you have failed.  – Dr. Wess Stafford, Too Small To Ignore

Over the last 2 days I had watched some emails circulating between a group of people where a mistake had been made.  There was dodging, a little finger-pointing, deflecting and justifying but little admission of ownership or willingness to say “my fault”.  And I thought about all the emotional effort and energy being exerted into proving that the fault or communication break down lie elsewhere.  Each person was aiming at success, in that the failure was not mine but belonged to someone else.

I was merely an observer this time, but how often do I put my ladder up against a wall that really doesn’t matter and climb with all my strength and energy to prove I’m right?  Or more accurately, to prove I’m not wrong.  Or to blame.  Or at fault.

This morning an email came through that changed the tone, one person was willing to say – ‘my bad’.  I own it.  It took a willingness to swallow pride, admit failure and be humbled.  That’s not failure at all.  In fact, it’s probably the first step towards success in this situation.

Looking to see which walls I’ve got my ladder leaning on today.


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