It’s Not For You



“Finding the humility to happily walk away from those that don’t get it unlocks our ability to do great work.” – Seth Godin

You can please some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time…

Embracing the failure to please everyone all of the time, unleashes your best work and will in the end please the most people the most times. Including yourself. Seth Godin examines the humility of this failure embrace in a number of his posts…

  • “It seems arrogant to say, ‘perhaps this isn’t for you.’ When the critic pans your work, or the prospect hears your offer but doesn’t buy, the artist responds, ‘that’s okay, it’s not for you.’ She doesn’t wheedle or flip-flop or go into high pressure mode. She treats different people differently, understands that she is working to delight the weird, not please the masses, and walks away. Isn’t that arrogant? No. It’s arrogant to assume that you’ve made something so extraordinary that everyone everywhere should embrace it. Our best work can’t possibly appeal to the average masses, only our average work can.” – The humility of the artist
  • 2% of your customers don’t get it. They won’t read the instructions, they’ll use the wrong handle, they’ll ignore the warning about using IE6. They will blame you for giving them a virus or will change the recipe even though you ask them not to… If you’re going to be in a mass market business, you have no choice to but to accept that this group exists. And to embrace them. Not to blame them, but to love them. Successful businesses have the resilience to make it easy for them to recover. To make it easy for these people to find you and to blame you and to get the help they need.” – Customers who break things
  • Unanimity is impossible unless you are willing to be invisible. We can be unanimous in our lack of feedback for the invisible one. For everyone else, though, the ability to say, ‘It’s not for you,’ is the foundation for creating something brave and important. You can’t do your best work if you’re always trying to touch the untouchable, or entertain those that refuse to be entertained. ‘It’s not for you.’ This is easy to say and incredibly difficult to do. You don’t have much choice, though, not if you want your work to matter.” – For the one person who didn’t get the joke

Embracing Humility

Rick Pitino Celtic failure


Humility is what makes teams great. I’ve preached it for a long period of time.” – Rick Pitino

It wasn’t always thus. It took failure to get there. As March Madness ‘bracketology’ preoccupies American basketball fans, defending champion Louisville made it into the revered “Sweet Sixteen” quarterfinals this weekend. Led by renowned coach Rick Pitino, his march to success of late embraced plenty of failure recounted in a recent Boston Globe piece “Rick Pitino fondly recalls Celtics years” (thanks Dad)…

  • “Although Pitino’s years with the Celtics are viewed as an abject failure for the organization and coach, one the Celtics would not recover from for a half-decade, Pitino considers that period as one that humbled him and prepared him for the success he now enjoys at Louisville… ‘I think it sort of defined me in the end because there [were] probably two things missing in my life as a coach. One was humility and the other one was failure. We took over a 15-win team before we got there and I banked everything on getting Tim Duncan [in the draft]. And when that didn’t happen, you failed them. But I left there understanding that there’s nothing wrong with failure if you learned the lesson of why you failed, and the other thing is it taught me great humility of why you win and why you lose. I think I wouldn’t be complete today if I didn’t learn that. To me, Boston was, although it wasn’t the success stories of all the other programs, it was probably the most lessons learned in my life. To me, it was a great experience…You pick yourself up, you don’t blame anybody and you don’t point any fingers and you say ‘OK, what can you do better this time around?’ and that’s exactly what I did. For about a couple of months, I blamed the Ping-Pong balls, I blamed it being on unlucky, I blamed it on everything but the truth. The [fact of the] matter is I didn’t do a good enough job as an executive.”

The Obit

William Freddie McCullough obit


I remember in my journalistic apprenticeship years ago learning that the Obituary columns was typically the most widely read portion of the newspaper. They provide a concise snapshot of one’s life and loved one for obvious reasons highlighting the positives and high points of the individual’s life.

Recently, some departed have embraced this bereavement benediction to moving and comical extremes. NBC Today featured some of the funniest bones being laid to rest in their piece “Light-hearted obits more than a passing fancy, say family of 2013′s funniest dead

  • “More dearly departed, it seems, are departing drolly, having their personalities punctuate their obituaries — typically dry tallies of occupations, affiliations and surviving relations. Instead, folks like William Freddie McCullough are bidding farewell amid playful write-ups that disclose pure passions, loathsome gripes, and those singular quirks that make each of us, us…Freddie adored the ladies. And they adored him. There isn’t enough space here to list all of the women from Freddie’s past. There isn’t enough space in the (local) phone book…Freddie was killed when he rushed into a burning orphanage to save a group of adorable children. Or maybe not. We all know how he liked to tell stories.”

Jane Catherine Lotter’s approach was more inspirational (tinged with humour) featured in Huffington Post’s “Seattle Author’s Powerful Self-Written Obituary Goes Viral”…

  • “One of the few advantages of dying from Grade 3, Stage IIIC endometrial cancer, recurrent and metastasized to the liver and abdomen, is that you have time to write your own obituary. (The other advantages are no longer bothering with sunscreen and no longer worrying about your cholesterol.)… I was given the gift of life, and now I have to give it back. This is hard. But I was a lucky woman, who led a lucky existence, and for this I am grateful…May you always remember that obstacles in the path are not obstacles, they ARE the path.”


Jane Catherine Lotter obit

Talking Death

La Cross Wisconsin


The conversation about death is not just avoided by doctors talking to doctors, but also doctors talking to patients. Except in La Crosse, Wisconsin, “The Town Where Everyone Talks About Death”. Where Bud Hammes pioneering approaches has transformed how at least this town embraces the ultimate failure (thanks Eileen)…

  • “In La Crosse, Wisconsin, you’re unusual if you don’t have a plan for your death. Some 96 percent of people who die in La Crosse have an advance directive or similar documentation. Nationally, only about 30 percent of adults have a document like that. In this community, talking about death is a comfortable conversation…basically because of one guy in town. Bud Hammes works as a medical ethicist at a local hospital called Gundersen Health System. For years, he was called when someone’s dad had a stroke, was in a coma, on machines. Bud would sit down with the family and try to help them figure out what to do next. And every time, he says, the discussion was excruciating. ‘The moral distress that these families were suffering was palpable," he says. "You could feel it in the room.’ Most of the time, Bud says, they’d be talking about a patient who had been sick for years. Why not have that conversation earlier? So Bud started training nurses to ask people ahead of time, would you like to fill out an advanced directive. It took a while but the idea caught on. Nurses started asking patients questions like: If you reach a point where treatments will extend your life by a few months and side effects are pretty serious, would you want doctors to stop, or continue to do all that could be done? And a lot of patients said: Stop.”

Do You Remember


As in “do you remember that patient?…” According to Dr. Brian Goldman, the 3 words that a doctor dreads in the most. He bravely shares a number of times in his career when faced them in his confessional TED (another one for the list) talk “Doctors make mistakes. Can we talk about that?

  • “And I came out of medical school with the impression that if I memorized everything and knew everything, or as much as possible, as close to everything as possible, that it would immunize me against making mistakes.”

In the presentation, he makes a plea for greater embrace of mistakes so that doctors can share, learn and heal.

  • They say you never forget the names of those who die. And that was my first time to be acquainted with that. Over the next few weeks, I beat myself up and I experienced for the first time the unhealthy shame that exists in our culture of medicine — where I felt alone, isolated, not feeling the healthy kind of shame that you feel, because you can’t talk about it with your colleagues.”

The doctor-doctor relationship isn’t the only one in the medical world tinged by the shun of failure. All too often the doctor-patient one suffers breakdown. The “Duty of Candour” movement in the UK is lobbying to get doctors to “to inform patients or next of kin of errors or incidents which may cause serious harm or death” with a campaign for “Robbie Law” to make such candour a legal requirement.

Top TED List


30th Anniversary for TED today. Over three decades, many pearls of embracing failure wisdom have been shared in concise and compelling 20 minute packages. Here is a list of 13 of my favourites (and I’ve featured one of my very favourites in the video above)…

  1. Embrace the Shake, Phil Hansen
  2. On Being Wrong, Kathryn Schulz
  3. Failing All the Way to Success, Jason Njoku
  4. Listening to Shame, Brene Brown
  5. Creative Houses from Reclaimed Stuff, Dan Phillips
  6. 4 Lessons in Creativity, Julie Burstein
  7. The Power of Vulnerability, Brene Brown
  8. If I Should Have a Daughter, Sarah Kay
  9. Life Lessons Through Tinkering, Gever Tulley
  10.  The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor
  11.  Unintended Consequences, Edward Tenner
  12.  Your Elusive Creative Genius, Elizabeth Gilbert
  13.  The Opportunity of Adversity, Aimee Mullins

The Red Lantern

Red Lantern


The last musher to make the burled arch is asked to extinguish the Widow’s Lamp, an act that signifies all mushers are off the trail.”

The last mushers arrived in Nome yesterday securing the prize for last place in the infamous Iditarod race. As Seth Godin describes in his post The Red Lantern

  • “At the gruelling Iditarod, there’s a prize for the musher who finishes last: The Red Lantern.  Failing to finish earns you nothing, of course. But for the one who sticks it out, who arrives hours late, there’s the respect that comes from finding the strength to make it, even when all seems helpless.”

“Un-mush!” – Yukon Cornelius


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