Mindful Agility

Failure in Dublin: Matt Learns Lessons the Hard and Fast Way, through Experiments

December 27, 2022 Daniel Greening Season 1 Episode 16
Failure in Dublin: Matt Learns Lessons the Hard and Fast Way, through Experiments
Mindful Agility
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Mindful Agility
Failure in Dublin: Matt Learns Lessons the Hard and Fast Way, through Experiments
Dec 27, 2022 Season 1 Episode 16
Daniel Greening

When we fail, we can easily fall into anxiety, guilt, or depression. But failure can lead us toward success. A simple Google search reveals many famous people discuss their failures and subsequent successes. We can succeed through failure, too!

In this episode of the Mindful Agility podcast, Mirela Petalli, Matthew Zimmerman, Dan Dickson and Dan Greening discuss an episode of Matt's life. He moved to Ireland, thinking it would solve all his problems, and discovered: Nope. But through that humiliating experience, Matt unexpectedly discovered folks he could count on, and years later, he realized his experiment gave him new powers.




  • Daniel Greening, host, agile consultant, software executive
  • Mirela Petalli, co-host, meditation guide, and neurocritical nursing instructor
  • Dan Dickson, business coach, executive and management consultant


Show Notes Transcript

When we fail, we can easily fall into anxiety, guilt, or depression. But failure can lead us toward success. A simple Google search reveals many famous people discuss their failures and subsequent successes. We can succeed through failure, too!

In this episode of the Mindful Agility podcast, Mirela Petalli, Matthew Zimmerman, Dan Dickson and Dan Greening discuss an episode of Matt's life. He moved to Ireland, thinking it would solve all his problems, and discovered: Nope. But through that humiliating experience, Matt unexpectedly discovered folks he could count on, and years later, he realized his experiment gave him new powers.




  • Daniel Greening, host, agile consultant, software executive
  • Mirela Petalli, co-host, meditation guide, and neurocritical nursing instructor
  • Dan Dickson, business coach, executive and management consultant


Cold Open

[00:00:00] Mirela Petalli: And when we go back and catastrophize this way and say, oh, maybe I shouldn't have even tried that. Why did I try that? I would have avoided myself so much pain. if we feed that, feeling like a failure, that will make us apprehensive to try again.



[00:00:17] Daniel Greening: Welcome to the Mindful Agility podcast. 

[00:00:20] This is one episode of a little project we decided to do a couple of months ago where we actually talk explicitly about our failures and how those failures impacted our lives. 

[00:00:32] Mirela Petalli: Research has shown that sharing your failure stories is really helpful. And that's one of the reasons why we are doing this because when we share our failure stories, we help other people, but we also help ourselves too. Because when we share our failure stories it helps us connect with others and it helps us gain that confidence, so we can try again. And when we see that other people are benefiting from our shared stories, that gives us more purpose. 

[00:01:01] Daniel Greening: I'm Dan Greening, host of Mindful Agility and an agile management coach.

[00:01:06] Mirela Petalli: I'm Mirela Petalli the co-host of Mindful Agility. I'm a mindfulness instructor, a neuro critical care nurse and a nursing instructor. 

[00:01:15] Matt Zimmerman: I'm Matt Zimmerman, the Scrum Master for Mindful Agility and i'm also a web product manager. 

[00:01:20] Dan Dickson: And I'm Dan Dickson. I'm a consultant for Mindful Agility, a startup executive, and a consultant and business coach for companies worldwide. 

[00:01:29] Daniel Greening: How do mindfulness and agility factor in to how we interpret failure? How do we plan for failure? What do we do when it happens? 


[00:01:39] Daniel Greening: In this episode we'll focus on Matt Zimmerman, how he didn't really like living in the United States or so he thought. And then moved to Europe and it didn't turn out exactly the way he was hoping. We'll see how it all went.



Matt's story

[00:01:57] Matt Zimmerman: When I was 37 , I had been working at NYU for eight years in their it department doing academic computing supporting faculty, but ever since I was about 20, my dream was to live in Europe or to live overseas. I was one of those people who would say, "Oh, I hate this country and I want to get outta here. And my life would so much better if I could just be somewhere else." I had applied for a job in Dublin in Ireland. It was a three year contract and I knew the person running the program I went over, interviewed and got the job.

[00:02:28] This is dream come true. My life is finally gonna be fixed and I went over. The first month was really good. And then after about the first month I started to freak out a bit. 

[00:02:39] Mirela Petalli: So you had had this dream for such a long time and then when you finally were there and it became true, something changed What happened?

[00:02:49] Matt Zimmerman: I didn't really like the job I didn't get along with the person I was reporting to. I was very difficult. Between the anxiety of being there by myself, and the anxiety of not feeling comfortable going to work, about three or four months, I just couldn't do it anymore. And I resigned. And since I was there on a work permit, I couldn't just go find another job that permit was for that job. I left, I came back to Philadelphia , moved in with my parents again.

[00:03:17] Mirela Petalli: . Wow so much change in such a short time how did that feel? 

[00:03:21] Matt Zimmerman: I don't wanna say my life was over, but I was embarrassed. was ashamed. Everyone knew this happened . For about a month or so I didn't see how this could get better, especially cuz in my head I was like, "Oh, I'm just gonna go back to Philly and then I'll go back up to New York and get a job." And it was impossible to find a job at that time. So I, I ended up living with my parents for 10 months at that time.

[00:03:42] Great things came out of it. I ended up getting a job in Dallas after that, and lived there for a few years, which I really enjoyed. If anything, it taught me that your geography or where you are, isn't gonna solve your problems you can be anywhere and be happy and anywhere and be miserable. it's really about what you're doing as opposed to where you are. 

[00:04:02] Daniel Greening: So now you feel more comfortable going anywhere. It sounds like, right? Like you went to Dublin, it wasn't great miserable. And then you come back, , it's a recession and you can't get a job and living with mom and dad, but now you've had that experience.

[00:04:22] So now it's not quite so scary, maybe going to a different location.


[00:04:27] Matt Zimmerman: When you're 37, you probably think. I think. the worst thing. That could happen to you is that you have to go back and live with your parents And I did it and was fine so it was a great experience, but 

[00:04:39] I think it comes back to that when you do fail or something, that whole, okay what's the worst thing that could happen. So now I tried to do that exercise a lot okay, let's say things go, not the way I want, like what's the worst that could happen 

[00:04:54] Mirela Petalli: Do you think there was something you could have done to make the experience less painful back then 

[00:05:01] Matt Zimmerman: I think the fact that I moped for a month and I got out of my system was good. I think if I tried to fight that and pretend things were okay. Or pretend it wasn't disappointing, then that would be that wind's good. I think it was good for me to be like, yeah, this was really disappointing. This isn't how I want it to go. I don't know what's gonna happen right now. And so for now, I'm just gonna not feel great, but I had a safe place to do it, which, which helped. I guess that's could be advice for people who have loved ones who are going through something like this is often what they need is not for you to tell them, oh, you didn't do anything wrong or it's gonna be fine. It's more okay, let them have their time to mourn, 

[00:05:39] Mirela Petalli: is is acceptance this sucks right now and that's okay. you can let it suck for a little.

[00:05:46] Matt Zimmerman: from a mindful agility point of view I really didn't have any I didn't have a why I didn't have a good, why am I doing this? I just had this grand plan of, I'm not happy with my life and I'm gonna do this thing and it's gonna make things better no wonder I felt like I failed if that's what you're setting yourself up to. and I think that's. 

[00:06:03] One of the key things with agile Dan, in the enjoy.com episode, you had talked about when you had the startup that was making the precursor to the red box video vending machines. And at one point you realized, okay we're not trying to make a good vending machine.

[00:06:17] Dan Dickson: Yeah, we got hung up on building a vending machine. When the real objective was to introduce a more convenient means of distributing a product to the consumer. And understanding whether the consumer would accept it. The machine was just a means to an end. And there were lots of companies that were better equipped to build it. We eventually came to that conclusion. But we wasted a whole lot of time and money in the interim trying to invent something that didn't really need inventing. 

[00:06:38] Daniel Greening: It's kind of like this podcast, the why for this podcast isn't to create a giant. Following of millions of people. That would be great, of course, but the primary purpose is to learn to communicate these important ideas to a broader audience. How can we reach them? How can we help them? So when we frame our mission, that way. We're doing it right. We're working on stuff. We're learning more and it's very satisfying. But if we decided upfront that we wanted to create a ragingly successful. Podcast. In a year well we didn't make that.

[00:07:19] Matt Zimmerman: I think if I did it again, or if I was giving someone advice, I would say, stop and think why you're doing this, was I doing it for the money? No, I was gonna make about the same amount of money. Was I doing it for the the job? Not really. The job was about the same. So really I had some idea. Living in Europe, I'd enjoy the culture better and it would make you happier. So I think if I had gone in with a clearer attitude of testing us out, I have this idea that it'd be happier there, but I'm not sure. So let's go see what happens. And then when something could come up, like if I didn't enjoy my job, I could say okay. But that's really not specific to what I'm trying to find out here. I'm trying to find out, if I like it here or not, so I think that's what I've learned is when you need to do something like this, that the agile way is to, decide on, what value am I trying to add, to my life or my company or anything like that.

[00:08:06] Dan Dickson: Well, the other thing that you mentioned is the whole idea of experimenting. The premise here was that if I live in Europe, everything's gonna be fine. And so would there be a way to test that without, basically going all in, which is what you did. 

[00:08:19] Matt Zimmerman: Today I think because of the way remote work is, and like Airbnb, I would tell someone Hey, if you have a job that you can work remote, go live somewhere for a month, then know the country. So if you like it, then if you like it, then. That maybe say, okay, I'm gonna run an apartment for a year and maybe work remote, or maybe I find a job there. 

[00:08:38] I, I think you could experiment a lot more today, but even back then when it wasn't as easy I could have done something like broken it down and say well, my goal for the first three months is just to find an apartment I like and settle in and not worry about other things.

[00:08:52] And then after that, I'm going to trying to find a social club. I like cycling. So let's find a cycling club and join that. And so I think that would be a good way to experiment, but even then you could go back even further and say, okay what didn't I like about living in the us? My friends in Europe all had six weeks vacation and only had two. And I felt it was like so focused on work. Do you need to move to do that? if that's the problem you're trying to solve, maybe that's something you could even do, locally and not have to make such a big change.

[00:09:18] Maybe you could work freelance. Maybe you could find another job. I went in with this all or nothing thing and didn't do any experimentation at

A mindful perspective

[00:09:25] Mirela Petalli: So from a, from an Agility perspective, but also from a mindfulness perspective, it is important to have an intention, like a big intention, a big plan, but then to have also the small experimentation, the small iterations, because when you say. I'm going to move to Europe or I'm gonna lose 20 pounds or whatever that big plan we have is if we go all in without having a detailed plan, like small increments, small experiments that we can set up, it's never going to work in the long term because we're gonna get overwhelmed right away.

[00:10:00] Daniel Greening: I guess Agile people would argue that you shouldn't have a detailed plan with a bunch of iterations planned upfront. You might plan the big picture upfront, like what's the whole point of this. , but the near term iterations, you just plan one or two. Then if things don't work out you have lots of freedom to reverse or change your trajectory along the way because you don't have this giant detailed plan you spent lots of time putting together. 

[00:10:30] The key here is each of these increments should be low risk, so you don't get in trouble because, you are betting everything on, some big. Big outcome

[00:10:42] Mirela Petalli: Yeah, it is very interesting because when we are Mindful and we look at things from a perspective of thinking about why we do the things we do or where we are, if we. Practice mindfulness. And we get some clarity and we can see reality with more objectivity, which is like what is it that's happening right now?

[00:11:05] What is it that I like, or don't like about the situation I am in right now. And where do I wanna go from here? and it goes back to that big intention. It's not wrong to have a big intention. It's not wrong to say. I want to change my life. I want to make 1 million, whatever your goal is.

[00:11:26] It's good to have an intention. It's good to have a long term goal that is gonna help us when we have these failures, because we can go back to that and focus on that and say, this is where I'm going to. 

[00:11:38] What mindfulness helps us do is that we have a better understanding of why. The why behind why we want things, why we have this intention.

[00:11:47] And then from there, we know we can understand better how to go about it, because when like Matt, you found yourself in a new country. With this vague desire to have a different life. And you knew what you wanted, but you didn't really have a plan of how to get that or how to do that. In small steps in small experiments, mindfulness helps us from the beginning, understand why we wanna do something and then helps us create the conditions, the causes and conditions so we can make those plans. Increments that can help us achieve what we want. 

[00:12:27] Matt Zimmerman: And in fact, mirela and I have been talking about moving to Albania. Just for a year. But even before that, we went this summer for a few weeks just to see if I even liked it enough to be there for a year. And I worked two weeks remote from there and then I was on vacation for three weeks. . We were approaching that in a bit of an agile fashion instead of popping me down in Albania and saying. Okay, here we are. 


What do you do once it does happen? After?

[00:12:50] Matt Zimmerman: but on the other side, once something happens and you're in this mindset that you failed. You just accept. Okay. I feel a bit crappy right now and that's natural and that's okay. Don't try to, change that it is what it is, but I think when we're in those situations where we feel we failed, we almost tend to double down and do something even bigger prove that , we could do it and I. Have a friend who's a, marriage therapist and, he always tells people if you're gonna leave your relationship, that's fine. But if you leave your relationship for another one, you're probably just going to repeat the same mistakes.

[00:13:21] I think when you're in that feeling of, oh, I failed it's probably again, good to step back and say, okay what do I want to do now? And what are some small steps I can take? And what did I learned from before instead? Going all in on something else. I don't know if that's what Ron Johnson did after penney. 

[00:13:37] Dan Dickson: Hmm. Good point. 

[00:13:38] Matt Zimmerman: all 

[00:13:38] Yeah, failed. Now I'm gonna go all in on this new thing instead of stepping back. 

[00:13:42] Daniel Greening: There's a name for this? It's called the sunk cost bias. And I've experienced it myself. Like when I had a little business failure, then I want to step rack on the horse right away to prove that I don't suck. But. That has not ended well usually.

[00:14:01] Matt Zimmerman: It's easy to talk about doing this, but, I feel we're also ruled by our emotions or at least I.

[00:14:07] I'm curious, what's a practical way to actually do this, whether it's business or personal 

The Five Whys

[00:14:10] Daniel Greening: Here at Mindful Agility, we sometimes analyze problems using a technique called five whys. Where you try to think of the causal chains for a problem. The idea is to think of one cause then ask, why did that happen? And the answer is a cause in that chain. When you have at least one chain that's five whys long, and can't think of anything else, now you can find multiple, hopefully easy ways to fix the problem. 

[00:14:41] Dan Dickson i know you have some thoughts on this.

[00:14:44] Dan Dickson: I just tried to think through the exercise we did, and it seems like the biggest issue. You quit your job. And and the biggest reason for that was that you thought the living in Europe would make you feel better. But there, there are four factors behind that. You turned out everything was the same. You get up, you go to work and it's it's the same kind of routine, just in a different place. You didn't like the job. didn't like your boss and you didn't have any. And I think that there are certainly Mindful elements to that.

[00:15:07] And I'm wondering if that conversation might make some sense to look at it from that standpoint, take those four points and look at the Mindful aspects of them.

[00:15:14] Matt Zimmerman: When I think about those four things, you brought up, Dan. Let's say my first reaction was I really don't like this job, know, I could stop and say, okay, is it the job or is it just you don't like who you're reporting to and is that a concession you can make okay I like the job.

[00:15:27] I'm not maybe getting off my boss what can I do to fix that? I said before my work permit was only one job. If I really thought I didn't like it, I could have kept that job kept working. Maybe tried to find another one. maybe get sponsored for that, but I just went into this.

[00:15:42] Oh no, this isn't working, I have to get outta here and then yeah. Compounds, you start thinking, oh, and I don't know anyone here, but the only way to do that is to go out and meet people. Yeah, I think the problem is he tried to do all this at once, but yeah, if you could sit back and say, okay, I really should have some friends here.

[00:15:57] Let me go find. Some activity I like, or, let me go meet people or things like that. But I think I was so overwhelmed the time. I couldn't step back and be Mindful and, look at those different things. And a lot of it was so much was happening at once. Cause I thought I said if I was in New York and didn't like, my job, I'd be fine.

[00:16:15] Cause I'd find another one. Or but I think I just felt overwhelmed by, everything at once.

It is how we see the situation. Not the actual situation

[00:16:20] Mirela Petalli: It's not as much about the situation itself as it is about how we see the situation. It's about changing our perspective. If you had a different perspective on the situation you were in, you could then look at it differently and take those actions that you said, which is important because it's that distance from a mindfulness perspective is we take some distance.

[00:16:42] We look at things from an outsider's perspective. What is Matt doing? 

[00:16:46] and that can help us see things. From a perspective of we are calmer and we are less emotionally attached and we can make decisions that are more rational and more logical.

[00:16:59] Dan Dickson: Yeah. And that's what it ties into what Matt was talking about because all these four factors that. We came up with the five whys. They just cascaded together. It sounds like. and rather than pick 'em apart in a Mindful manner and try to understand why you were reacting the way you were, you just became overwhelmed, it sounds like.

Beating your self up - the second arrow

[00:17:17] Matt Zimmerman: And so much of this is in hindsight now that I can look at it and pick those things apart, I said earlier that when I finally got back to the states, I was beating myself up of like, oh, I shouldn't have gone there. That was a dumb decision. 

[00:17:30] Instead of saying, oh things didn't go right. Or I made a few mistakes along the way. I don't know how often we go back and say, oh, I shouldn't have done that. I shouldn't have married this person, or I shouldn't have started this business, or I shouldn't have bought this house or something like that. 

[00:17:42] Dan Dickson: You know, here's another thought, uh, and I yield to both of you guys, because you're more the Buddhism than I am. But isn't this a case of the second arrow. 

[00:17:50] Matt Zimmerman: Yeah. Oh my God. Yeah, it really is. It's the wanting things to be different than they are and beating yourself up more yeah, it is. it is. It's a big, second arrow. yeah. 

[00:18:00] Mirela Petalli: it's interesting because when something like this happens, we fail and it causes us lots of pain and it causes us lots of suffering and we doubt ourselves. And when we go back and catastrophize this way and say, oh, maybe I shouldn't have even tried that. Why did I try that? I would have avoided myself so much pain.

[00:18:20] When we do that, we hit ourselves with that second arrow the suffering of suffering, but we also create the conditions that make us scared, make us fearful to try again, because if we feed that thought process that I shouldn't have even tried. I would have avoided myself the humiliation or the pain or getting fired, or, feeling like a failure, that will make us apprehensive to try again.

[00:18:48] For those who are not familiar with the concept of the second arrow. It is the Buddhist idea that when something bad happens to us, we fail for example, that hurts. Hertz. And that is the first. The arrow. But then when we start feeling ashamed, And like we are a failure that is the second arrow

[00:19:07] but when we look back at it and say, okay, this happened, I tried, I failed this is what I could have done better. And we approached it with compassion and mind and with the clear understanding that what is in the past is in the past, we cannot change that. What we can do is we can reflect on it and take some lessons from it, be compassionate to ourselves and to other people in circumstances that in that happened at the time and move on, which is not an easy thing to do.

[00:19:41] But then we can look back with gratitude most of the time, we can look back to our most painful experiences and see that what came out of them was not all bad, but the opposite, like Matt, what are the good things that came from that experience?

What are the good things that happened.? What did you learn?

[00:19:58] Matt Zimmerman: The one thing was, since I came back home, I was with my parents. I had a new appreciation for them as just people and not my parents. And even where I grew up in Philadelphia and things like that. I think I was in that typical situation where you just wanted to get away from where you grew up and the one insight was, "Oh, these people are okay," and then also, I think I got the insight of like geography. Isn't gonna change things. So I think going forward, I wasn't as fixed on, oh, if. If I move somewhere cool. I'm gonna be happier. 

[00:20:30] I mean, 

[00:20:31] empirically, you can say, Hey, I like 

[00:20:33] uh, 

[00:20:33] warm weather. Southern California. It'd be good for me or something, but it's not gonna solve all your problems.

[00:20:40] Dan Dickson: So that would be the perspective you gained on this specific element is that if I move somewhere else, everything's going to change. You really realize that that wasn't the case but it mean that you wouldn't try moving somewhere else, but with eyes open wide this time, 

[00:20:54] Matt Zimmerman: Yeah. That's a really good point. I think that's Mirela was, Mirela saying you could get in this point of oh, I got married and I got divorced. I'm never getting married again, but You could be like, okay, I'd like to be in a relationship again, but this time I'm gonna be a little more mindful.

[00:21:04] Yeah. I've I lived in Dallas after that. I lived in New Jersey now. I live in Ohio. So I've obviously moved different places. Dallas is cool, but Jersey and Ohio, aren't exactly places people like say, oh my God, I want to go live in New Jersey or Ohio someday. But I've had fun in both of

[00:21:20] Mirela Petalli: Ohio is great by way We're it's not 

[00:21:23] Dan Dickson: Actually, I know sounds kind of, kind of odd, but I had some wonderful times in Cleveland. And everybody tends to bad mouth that city. You know, I've lived a lot of different places and, um, people always ask me, where would I would want to go back to or. Where would i like to um move to I can't think of any place with one exception that I really wasn't able to fit into and enjoy.

[00:21:45] Matt Zimmerman: That's so true. And having lived in Brooklyn for eight years and having left there, I've met so many New Yorkers who never leave Manhattan and can't imagine live anywhere else. And when you tell them like, oh no, there's good things in Cincinnati and Columbus and Cleveland and Pittsburgh they find it hard believe.

[00:22:02] Mirela Petalli: I love that is that insights or that Mindful approach to things that if we slow down and we can look around us, we can find beauty and we can find people and we can find things that are valuable anywhere. If we are comfortable within ourselves then we can be comfortable anywhere.

[00:22:21] Dan Dickson: You know, one of my favorite tongue in cheek. Um, comments is no problem is so big or complicated you can't run away from. It. And hindsight is a wonderful thing and you can always think about what done better, but it's helpful, not in the second arrow sense in terms of beating yourself up, but in terms of, okay, what did I learn from this?

What do you do when it is happening. When it is hot?

[00:22:39] Mirela Petalli: We are talking in hindsight, it's been a long time, but I know that people are interested in knowing what do you do right then and there, when things are still hot, when you are feeling like a failure, When the pain is the most excruciating, because it just happened.

[00:22:55] You failed big or small. And how do you deal with that? Cuz it's easier like to look at things back in the distance and time has passed and your feelings and emotions are not as heightened anymore. So it's easy to do that. So I would say that this analysis that we just did and Matt you are able to do now is not something that I would suggest people do, when they feel like they failed, that would not be helpful. 

[00:23:22] The things that would be helpful when you just feel that you failed is to bring some calmness to bring some compassion to the situation and to be able to get through that beginning stage of feeling like a failure.

[00:23:38] In your story, you talked about moping around and being able to sit there with the pain, the, with the disappointment for a month when you stayed with your parents and that helped you a lot.

[00:23:49] Matt Zimmerman: Yeah, it did. I didn't realize at the time it felt awful. I felt like nothing was ever gonna get better. I was a loser 

[00:23:55] And all of that was the second arrow. 

[00:23:59] I think I had mentioned this before that the one thing that didn't help is when people said I don't know. It's okay. You'll be fine. Or, oh, it wasn't a big deal all those things. It didn't help cuz it was discounting how I felt those things were real, those things. Did suck at the time. 

[00:24:13] And even that no big deal cop out was the second arrow because it creates this delusion, um, where you really want to look at the first arrow injury with clarity and honesty and not just pretend everything's okay. 

[00:24:26] Not that I did anything wrong, but you wanna be able to learn from your mistakes. And if people are telling you like, oh no, you're fine. You didn't do anything. I don't helps. Yeah.

[00:24:35] Mirela Petalli: Or we tend to put the blame outwards oh, it was it wasn't my fault , and that doesn't help us either. To step away from the situation and say, why did Mirela. Or what did Matt fail in this case and be able to look at the situation with objectivity as well as self-compassion and part of self-compassion is just to understand that this sucks right now, that at the moment you did the best that you could with whatever tools you had at the time. 

[00:25:07] Another important part of compassion is human commonality all of us suffer in some way and failing is not a unique experience. It is not only I who fail other people fail. Other people have tried to move to other countries and, got overwhelmed, and for some reason or some other. Didn't succeed and they went back home. So when we think about that, it makes us feel more connected and it makes that pain a little bit more bearable.

Talking about failure. Growing up where it was not tlked about

[00:25:39] Matt Zimmerman: Yeah, it's interesting you say about it being a common thing. One of the things that led to this was I didn't grow up in an environment where I saw people failing and getting back up again and succeeding. I think I grew up in an environment of kind of scarcity where someone had a job and they were afraid to lose it or I didn't have an environment where people said, Hey, try that.

[00:25:57] And if you fail it's okay. So I, I think I had this notion. Like in high school, the guy who was the quarterback on the football team, I just figured he's naturally great. I didn't see all the times he was practicing and missing passes and doing all that stuff and getting cut from a team and then trying out again, I repeated this pattern.

[00:26:15] This wasn't the first time this happened. I did it with other things. I would pick up a new sport and then when I wasn't good, Right away. I would drop it or I'd try to learn a language. And if I wasn't good, I'd stop. I was very naive. I just thought people were good at stuff or they weren't.

[00:26:29] Dan Dickson: You know, I had a very demanding father. And basically it was a situation that if I failed, that was wrong, that was bad. As opposed to well try things. And if you feel that's okay. And so I avoided doing things where I was afraid I might fail and it really closed me in. And it took me a long time to get past that. And that was my second arrow

[00:26:50] Mirela Petalli: Same for me. I grew in a very competitive environment where you had to be the best and you couldn't fail and if you failed, then that was the end of it. Or even that the people usually don't share their stories in a way that you can see their struggles or how many small failures they had that made them succeed.

[00:27:11] We look at success stories and we just see the end of it. And we think that, oh, that was it. They're natural. They're talented . We don't get to see the struggles. 

[00:27:22] Daniel Greening: In my case, my parents were trying to have me be more normal, primarily. I think. I did really well in elementary school, I skipped a grade. And in high school. I did well. When I went to college. I started getting BS and they were telling me, oh, that's okay, honey. That's good. That's normal. And that kind of irritated me because I know I wasn't performing at my best and I was procrastinating and doing a lot of other dysfunctional behaviors undergraduate school. Ultimately, I think it took until my junior year for me to detach from my parents' influence and get my grades better. I wanted to go to grad school and those grades were not going to get me into grad school. At least not the ones I wanted to go to. Ultimately I had to fuel my own success, but in comparison to you guys, I guess I'm really appreciative that my parents didn't humiliate me for making mistakes. So that created the crazy kid they got, i guess 

[00:28:30] Matt Zimmerman: Yeah. And I imagine you can't survive in the business world, unless you're, you have a high tolerance for setbacks and. Failures cuz it's so competitive 

[00:28:38] Dan Dickson: Well, about my experience in Silicon valley you know, everybody thinks you start an internet company, you get rich and you retire. I can't tell you how many times I took stock in startup companies. I'm talking about like 20 or 30 different cases here, only one of those even paid off a little bit. The failure rate, which people just didn't recognize was extremely high. People only look at the successes back to Mirela's point. They don't look at, all of the people that didn't have these successes and uh, the question. How many of these people, you know, saw that failure as a, personal, front, and then just gave up , went away as opposed to try it again. 

How do people stick with it and keep on going?

[00:29:14] Matt Zimmerman: I'm curious, Mirela in your reading, you hear about these stories of someone I don't know, maybe like Brad Pitt or someone who was still 30 and hadn't had a acting role yet. I'm not sure if he's one of those people, waiting table, sleeping in the car. And then all of a sudden they get the big break and I always wonder, like what makes that person keep going, as opposed to the thousand others, people who went out to Hollywood and, failed a few auditions and then gave up, 

[00:29:36] Mirela Petalli: Yeah, that's interesting. I think there is probably a combination of lots of causes and conditions. Personality and that not only the willingness and the desire to keep going, but the tolerance to failure as well. And that ability to look at yourself with honesty and to be able to see this is what I did. This is where I failed and, move on from that and be able to get back up and try again.

[00:30:03] Interestingly research has shown that experts in their field they tolerate better failures because they can recognize their success. So when we look at someone who is an expert in what they do, we see that they can get over their setbacks easier because they're able to recognize that they've had successes too.

[00:30:26] So having that attitude when we go back and do that analysis when we allow ourselves to go back and look at the situation from a third person perspective or from an ity perspective, impartiality perspective, then we can see what were the things that, yeah we failed, but we have also succeeded at times that can give us that ability to tolerate failure better and to keep trying that's I think when it comes down to what we learn from failure, how we recover from it and the ability to try again, the courage to try again

[00:31:01] Dan Dickson: it becomes easier if you've had a success. You're talking about actors. I ran a company in Santa Monica I just needed smart people who could come in when I needed them. And I had a number of aspiring actors and actress. I remember this one guy in particular, his first name was Peter. And he came walking into my office one day. He was so excited. Because he had just. Gotten a part in a mop commercial. And that he was looking at that, okay. I have made this one happen and he was back a few weeks later working again with me, and then he found another little success and things like that. And so to be able to, I guess, sort of temper your expectations in terms of what success really means. I mean, what he wasn't starring a, you know, 20th century, Fox blockbuster, but yet he was fulfilling his passion in this incremental way.

[00:31:46] Mirela Petalli: That's it, because when we have a big goal and we fail at it, like you, Matt wanted to move to Dublin and live there. , then it's hard to recover. But when we approach any goal that we have and break it down into smaller projects, , smaller experiments.

[00:32:02] We still have that big goal in mind where we can focus and come back to anytime we feel that we're not, we're not doing so well. We can go back to that big goal and say, this is where I'm going. This is what I want. But when we break it down into smaller experiments and increments, and we also approach it with compassion.

[00:32:21] So we were able to celebrate those small victories as well as look with honesty. and compassion at our small failures because we have already broken it down into the smaller experiments that don't cost as much. Then we are able to make progress and that's how all the big changes and all the big, everything that big that has happened in humanity has worked like that.

[00:32:45] All the big scientists have failed so many times and have had small successes and that's how they have ended up giving us all the amazing things that we have.

[00:32:55] Matt Zimmerman: Yeah. And if you think just taking that actor Dan, as example, when you break it down, Maybe you start a couple commercials and then you get a small part in a film. And then actually at that point, you's you know what? Maybe my big goal is not to be an actor. I really like directing or something.

[00:33:10] So you actually can find out if your big goal is really what you wanna 

[00:33:13] Mirela Petalli: Right. 

[00:33:14] Matt Zimmerman: I do. 

[00:33:14] Mirela Petalli: It brings to mind the point of non-attachment or being open to whatever comes because when we break down things like that and we are open to, yeah, I had this big goal in my mind, but then during the experience.

[00:33:28] I learned some new things about myself and now it's okay to change your mind. Not being attached to labels, not being attached to things being a certain way, being solid or unchangeable. It's a very important thing. 

[00:33:42] It bring me to mind the story of the farmer. , he was an old Chinese farmer who lost his best horse. And the neighbor came by rushing and said, oh, I'm so sorry. This is terrible. That you lost your horse. And the farmer just calmly says that's okay. Who knows is good? is bad? And the next day suddenly the horse comes back and he had just gotten some friends with him, some wild horses. now the farmer finds himself with many horses and the neighbor, again comes back, rushing and says, oh my gosh, you're so lucky. That is so great. Good for you. Now look at you. You have so many horses, but the farmer still 

[00:34:23] um 

[00:34:24] perturb says, who knows what is good and what is bad? And the neighbor is surprised he's not having a reaction to this at all. 

[00:34:33] The next day, the farmer's son goes out to train the horse and he falls and breaks his. and the neighbor again, does his due diligence comes back and say, oh, I'm so sorry. This sucks. Your son he's young. And he broke his leg and now he's gonna be out of commission for months until his leg gets better. And the farmer again, very calmly says, who knows what is good and what is bad? next day a war starts and they're come around drafting young people and they leave the farmer's young boy behind because he has a broken leg, so he doesn't have to go to war.

[00:35:10] And so again, the neighbor comes back and says, wow, that is so great. And the farmer again, very calmness says, who knows what is good and what is bad? 

[00:35:21] The moral of the story is that we never know what's gonna come out of a situation. When we are within the situation, we feel that we know we failed, oh my gosh, this sucks. I'm never gonna be good at this. My life is ruined. I'm never gonna be happy again. , whatever story we are telling ourselves, the truth is that we don't know. We never know. What the causes and conditions that are happening at the moment, what the effects of it are going to be in the future.

[00:35:54] So it is a good reminder to tell ourselves that who knows and be open to whatever comes and use everything, every experience as a lesson to learn from, That's one of the most important truths of life Everything is going to change whether we want it or not Everything is IM permanent and that can be a very good times. 

[00:36:17] Dan Dickson: might be a good, way to wrap this up. 


[00:36:21] Daniel Greening: Thanks for joining us today. When we gently lean into past failures, like career relationship or life setbacks, we can gain a lot of insight and become much more successful. Many famous people can recount their efforts that failed, but how they kept going and ultimately succeeded. You can find all sorts of stories like that on the web. And you can do it too. 

[00:36:47] It's okay to mope around and sit with disappointment. Matt got irritated when people tried to gloss over his failed move to Ireland, saying it wasn't that big a deal. 

[00:36:59] When we try to make progress on a goal, but we fail, acting like our setback was no big deal invalidates the goal itself. So it's okay to be disappointed. And okay to think about why it didn't work. 

[00:37:15] But we can avoid feeling guilty or anxious by thinking of our attempt as an experiment. Matt tried an experiment to move to Europe, and that didn't work. But as he thought about his experiment, he realized he expected happiness from moving overseas. But changing location didn't make a difference. So while the experiment failed, in one sense, Matt learned a lot more about what he really wanted. 

[00:37:47] When you experience a failure, look for a supportive environment: people who remain friends, whether your experiments are successful or not. You might find support where you least expect it. Matt found it with his parents. Very likely some friends will be there for you, those are the ones to nurture. You might find a social group with similar interest. Building a support network is something all of us do throughout our lives. It will really help you.



[00:38:20] Daniel Greening: We hope you liked this episode. If it helped you out, send us a note and we'll share some other failures and what we learned from them. 

[00:38:29] Many, thanks to Matt Zimmerman for sharing his story. Our co-hosts were Mirela Petalli and Dan Dickson. 

[00:38:37] Check the show notes for references to relevant articles, links to our staff profiles, our main website, community group and youtube channel

Calls to Action

[00:38:47] Daniel Greening: If you're interested in working with a group, trying to apply these concepts to their own lives, consider joining our Facebook group called "Mindful Agility Community," which meets every couple of weeks. 

[00:39:01] As an experiment, we recently hosted a tutorial called Loving Failure for Agile Success, where we go into greater depth on how to learn rapidly from failure. Search for Mindful Agility on YouTube.


[00:39:19] Matt Zimmerman: You know Ireland is going to be the most populous country in the world someday.

[00:39:23] Daniel Greening: Why's that?

[00:39:23] Matt Zimmerman: Most of the population is Dublin. 

[00:39:26] Daniel Greening: I'm Dan Greening, and this is Mindful Agility.