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Thought Leaders Unpacked -> What the Dog Saw #12: The Art of Failure

thought-leadersEvery week I feel like I’m saying, “This is my favorite chapter.”

So this week I’ll say, “This is my favorite chapter… so far.” Are men my age allowed to say, “OMG!” Earthquake to my soul.


The difference between choking and panicking. The difference between thinking too much and thinking too little. The difference between thinking when you don’t need to and not thinking when you do need to.

The first sort of over-thinking interferes with your natural (or practiced) ability to do what you need to do, and tragically you don’t do what you ordinarily would be able to do. The second sort of under-thinking interferes with your ability to put your brain to work when you need it most, and tragically you never get the opportunity to do what your brain would have otherwise been able to help you choose.

Choking or panicking.

I almost never panic. I tend to remain calm in crisis, my thinking somehow becomes clearer, and my willingness to act decisively heightens. I’m not sure why that is. I’ll just be thankful.

Choking, though, is another story altogether. And here is where this chapter was so enlightening for me. When faced with an important interview, for example, I respond to the importance by trying harder. That response has always made sense to me. Higher importance should translate into a higher level of effort.

But I am already a seasoned veteran in my field. And the trying harder, the extra thinking, that is, backfires and ends up working against me. Instead of my natural/practiced abilities taking center stage, my over-active brain muscles its way to the front. Instead of comfortably being the calm and transforming presence that clients find so engaging, I think about the significance of every word I’m choosing.

I think about coming across as I’d like to be perceived, I think about how my perspective on work and leadership is distinct, I think about communicating how much value potential clients stand to receive from me, I think, I think, I think.

And before you know it, I am strangely disconnected from the interview and coming across as the very sort of over-eager, disingenuous sort of salesperson I myself despise.

I don’t need to try harder. I need to stop trying. The outcome will be a more effective effort.

I don’t need to think more. I need to think less. The result will be more clearly communicated thoughts.

I need to set my seasoned, practiced self free to come to the fore and shine. I need to stop writing scripts in my head and trust that, pushed out of the nest of constant preparations, I will not only be able to fly, but soar.

What about you? Are you ready to join me in the skies?

What do you relate to most about either panicking or choking? What was your main take-away from this chapter?

Each week I post my reflections from one chapter of What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell. If you are just joining the discussion now, welcome! Catch up on the entire series here.

Here's My Thought...

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