My Other Favorite F-Words

End of year.

Facebook is concocting “Favorite Moments of 2016” videos for its users. Fun. Frivolous. 2 F-words I love. The easy ones.

I recently read interviews that featured two highly accomplished iconoclasts. Travis Rice, a record-breaking extreme snowboarder and star of 4 snowboarding films. Dr. Astro Teller, Head of Alphabet X, the research and development lab formerly known as Google X, whose current projects include self-driving cars and high-altitude balloons that offer internet connectivity to users below.

Pioneers and risk-takers. Rice and Teller celebrate fear and failure, respectively. 2 other F-words. The ones that define the F-experiences we like to shove under the rug.

The whole fearless mentality, Rice says, I kind of scoff at it a little bit, because if I was fearless I probably wouldn’t be here or be healthy. Fear is one of your greatest assets when you’re trying to operate in dangerous terrain, as we do. (Rice, Wall Street Journal, 11/25/16)

Fear as an instant source of wisdom. How very cool. Fear doesn’t paralyze Rice. Fear is part of his body wisdom that informs his split-second decisions. You and I aren’t extreme snowboarders, but it makes sense, doesn’t it? When I fear the experience of fear I will try to squash it, give it the cold shoulder. When I notice fear, second by second, and don’t shush it away, I may be guided toward making smarter choices and taking wiser risks.

First time I experienced the Mexican Day of the Dead was in the Heights section of Houston, many moons ago. My friend Elise took me to a gallery that housed several huge altars that celebrated the lives of ordinary folks that had passed. I was deeply stirred.

Dr. Teller and his team of researchers celebrate the Day of the Dead. Not in the traditional Mexican way. No, they gather to honor failed company ideas. We’re building an altar, Teller says, to help people celebrate their failure process and do a little bit of grieving for the projects that they really cared about that we had to stop. (Teller, Wall Street Journal, 11/18/16)

Whoa. Celebrate the failure process. Celebrate the entire spectrum of emotions we have about the work we do. And celebrate the insights a failure offers. Real failure, Teller says, is when people double down on things we shouldn’t double down on, whether it’s in marriage, business, or life.

Rice and Teller have a richly conscious relationship with their experience of work. They are risk takers. They embrace every facet of the human experience, including the less sunny F-states. And because they do, they are really, really successful.

I love fun and frivolity. I live in a F-state – Florida – where both are easily found. But as I reflect on 2016, I will not merely celebrate via the Facebook-video-motto. A year in the sun. I vow to celebrate my fears and failures.  They’re a source of wisdom. They’re predictors of future great success. Heck yeah.