Tethered to Dreams

Tether - Isley Lynn


  • MARK – I gave up everything for you.
  • BECKY – Don’t bullshit me Mark, you don’t do a damn thing for anyone else. Ever. You’d leave me in a heartbeat if you could but you’re not good enough. You only run with me because it means you can finally feel good about yourself again.

Like father, like daughter.  Our daughter, Isley, makes her latest stage triumph at the Edinburgh Fringe with a play all about triumph…and not just its failure, but embracing that failure.  Isley’s play “Tether” wins the dramatic arts triathlon being insightful, funny and uplifting all at the same time.  It is a mind, smile and heart provoking two-hander of two athletes with antithetically different approaches to dreams.  And yet, they both face the same wrenching challenges when those dreams die.

The character Mark is literally tethered to his dream (one of the most simply clever pieces of stage mechanics I have seen for a while).  As his brutally frank running partner elucidates…

  • "You know what I feel sorry for you. Because your whole life everyone told you were so wonderful and everything went so well for you and you struggled and sweated and gave 110 percent and you still weren’t good enough.”

Only through his relationship with blind runner Becky is he able to unshackle himself from his dream’s toxicity and forge new, healthier dreams.  Conversely,  Becky is someone without dreams.  Her disillusionment from childhood tragedy has numbed her more than just the loss of her eyesight.  In one of the most poignant scenes you will see on stage, Mark opens her eyes to the bigger world and the dreams that are possible within it.

Tether is playing at the Underbelly, Cowgate through 30 August.

Embracing the Monkey

BBC failure


  • “Not my circus, not my monkeys” – Polish saying

That Polish saying is one of my favourite sayings these days. It vividly captures to spirit of letting go of things that are simply not your problem or concern. But sometimes you need to embrace those monkeys. In the world of software development (my day job), one “monkey” actually literally seeks out failure for you. As Jamie Allen, director of Global Services, Typesafe explains, in the BBC Academy piece “The Need for Resilience

  • A further approach is to use tools, such as Netflix’s open-source library, Chaos Monkey, to actually target and destroy one’s own software instance within an availability zone on purpose. This encourages teams to build in the necessary resilience from very early on. By using auto-scaling groups (ASGs), a software instance can automatically appear in a different availability zone when one is taken down, thereby maintaining a service…These are tools that go out and break things."

BBC goes onto elaborate on its own ethos of embracing failure in its technical approach…

  • “You should decouple as many of the parts of your infrastructure as possible so they are not dependent on each other. The advent of microservice architecture has popularised this approach by dividing out separate components in a system so that they can be isolated from one another. We embrace failure by creating the very failures we’re concerned about. And that encourages good architecture and good design.”

And Russ Miles of Simplicity Itself articulates the essence of Antifragility in achieving this resilience…

“These are systems that want stresses. They get better with stress”

Embracing Wonder

Gapingvoid - Incomprehension monster


Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man’s desire to understand.” – Neil Armstrong

Neil Armstrong, born today 85 years ago, never came across Hugh’s little green man (above), but they both inspired the similar reflections on the vital role the failure of understanding has in driving knowledge forward.

Embracing Dangerous Methods


  • Sometimes you have to do something unforgiveable just to be able to go on living.” – Carl Jung

Carl Jung, born today in 1875, created some of the best known psychological concepts, including the archetype, the collective unconscious, the complex, and extraversion and introversion. The film, “A Dangerous Method” is a biopic about both him Jung and the other titan of psychotherapy, Sigmund Freud. It is less about their treatment of psychological breakdown and more about Jung’s quite literal embrace of it in the form of his patient which he characterises with the comment by the patient, Sabina –

  • I’m very interested in the myth of Siegfried: the idea that something pure and heroic can come, can perhaps only come, from a sin, even a sin as dark as incest.”

The Generous Sceptic

Seth Godin books


Happy Birthday Seth.

Today Seth shares his birthday with the world in a most generous fashion. He is crusading for “giving away” one’s birthday. Rather than seek out the tradition gifts, he wants people to think of it as an occasion to give, but not to the birthday boy or girl, but to a cause more needy. In his case, he is promoting the worthy “Charity: Water” which provides drinkable water to people without it around the world.

Another aspect of Seth’s generosity is his generous intellect. It is why he is listed in my “Thought Leader Roll” (see bottom right side). Especially his embrace of failure and doubt which is central to my explorations here. He is for me what he himself describes as a “Generous Sceptic”. A person who is willing to spend the time to think deeply about what’s ahead for you and what’s going to be difficult.”

He lists 3 ways to respond to a Generous Sceptic…

  1. Listen to them and give up.
  2. Fight back against them (confusing them with the ungenerous skeptic)
  3. Completely understand their point of view. ‘To act as if you agree with their skepticism and explore it all the way to the bottom.’

I haven’t always agreed with Seth, but have always tried to follow #3. And I have always admired his generosity.

Embracing Foulups

Gapingvoid - fail early


An entire evening of celebrating – failure…

  • The latest issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review reports on a recent trend of TED Talk- and Ignite-style events in which entrepreneurs share their shortcomings and failures. The events—I’ll call them “Foulup Nights” here, but the real name is saltier—launched in Mexico City in 2012 and have since taken place in more than 100 cities, according to the founders. The events are “a chance to reflect on bad decisions, missed opportunities, episodes of poor execution, and pivots that never paid off,” Greg Beato writes. “Unlike TED, a conference series that focuses on ‘ideas worth spreading,’ [Foulup] Nights showcases ideas worth shedding.”

Mark Athitakis reflects on the lessons of the many stories shared at Foulup Nights in his piece “The Value of Sharing Mistakes”…

  • Make it collective. In a tough situation, there’s safety in numbers..
  • Make it upbeat. As Katie Bascuas recently reported, there’s research to support the idea that failures are motivational.
  • No humblebragging. If you want your story to be taken seriously, be sincere about what the mistake actually was.

Best Failure

Government failure


And the award for “Best Failure” goes to…

While the USA bemoans that it fails to be the “best”, the UK government is actually embracing the “best” of their failures. The Independent article “Failure – a target that Whitehall can actually hit” describes their failure

  • The Cabinet Office minister in charge of carrying out Whitehall efficiency savings [Francis Maude] will say that accepting failure is the best way to encourage innovation and cut bureaucracy. Tech start-ups in California thrive on a "fail fast" motto that helps them learn quickly from their mistakes and go on to achieve success, the minister says. The ‘fail fast’ culture is said to free companies and individuals from caution and fear of things going wrong, and instead fosters creativity and innovation. Mr Maude has even sponsored a civil service award for "best failure", which will be given to the best team in the public sector that developed a project that failed before going on to transform it into a success.”

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