Five ways I fail in my life every day.

ways I fail

Years ago, I saw a statistic that haunted me. It haunts me still:

The primary emotion people feel when engaging in social media is jealousy.

Our social media narratives largely feature nothing but our shiny best selves. A constant stream of the best vacations and the best meals and the most beautiful children. It can wear on you.

Jealousy. Yes, I can understand that.

Since the day I learned of that statistic, I’ve tried to present a more balanced view of my life. I’m never going to show my normal pandemic hobo state of grooming because it’s kind of gross. But I want to present some downsides with my upsides. I would like people to see me as a normal person and counterbalance the jealousy.

So today I present five ways I fail every day. Sometimes, I’m just so bad it’s embarrassing, starting with:

1. I have a terrible time remembering people

I was planning a trip to California and decided to reach out to a friend who had been a fan of the blog for many years. I wrote her a note suggesting how fun it would be to meet for the first time! She responded and reminded me that I had actually met her twice before and sent a screenshot of a photo of us together that I posted on Facebook five years ago.

This problem is a chronic embarrassment for me. I can’t remember meeting people, even when I spend time with them.

It’s easy to chalk this up to “well, I meet SO MANY PEOPLE!” But no. It’s deeper than that.

Sometimes I can’t even remember meeting friends for dinner. I can’t explain it, but please forgive me ahead of time if I can’t remember our times together!

2. The little things matter. I don’t prioritize the little things.

My friend Evelyn Starr is the Queen of Thank You Notes. I recently received two from her on the same day. Evelyn, and many of my other friends, make sure that their colleagues know they are appreciated.

Every time I get a thank you note from Evelyn, it infuriates me on one level because it reminds me of how clunky I am with relationships.

These little things matter! They add up! They nurture relationships over time and distance and they open new opportunities.

I do passionately care for people but I almost never show it. I have this overwhelming mission to create, create, create at the expense of people and relationships sometimes. I am trying to do better. I sent out a thank you note last week. So there.

And thank you, Evelyn.

3. I don’t schedule enough time to think

Continuing with this same theme …

I am in a job that requires a lot of thinking. People count on me to show them what’s next in business and marketing. I have to absorb a lot of content and spend time thinking about it to achieve that … and I’m constantly failing in that area.

This aspect of my personality first became apparent in my corporate career when I moved from a frenzied sales job into a more cerebral marketing position. “You know,” my boss told me after a month on the job, “you can slow down a little. Take time to think.”

Never could.

I can relate to this verse from a song called “Non-stop” in the hit musical Hamilton:

Why do you write like you’re running out of time?
Write day and night like you’re running out of time?
Every day you fight, like you’re running out of time.

… I suppose it’s because I’m running out of time.

4. I’m too direct

During my very first performance review when I was a young man in the corporate world, my boss crushed me with this feedback:

“Vicky thinks you dislike her,” he said.

Vicky was our administrative assistant. She was literally the nicest person I’ve ever known. How could she possibly think I don’t like her???

“When you come to work, you just work,” my boss said. “You never spend time talking to Vicky.”

To Vicky, watching me keep my head down in work all day meant I was ignoring her. It’s not that I was intentionally mean. It’s that I was not intentionally nice.

A mentor once told me that every weakness is an overdone strength. My strength is focus. But overdone, it can come across as “asshole.”

I am a “get to business” kind of guy but I will never forget the Vicky lesson. I try to stop and be nice but when I don’t, people often get the wrong impression. Being too direct can come across as uncaring or even mean. Still happens.

5. I’m not the life of the party any more

I recently had a super weird experience. I was able to view some unearthed videos of me as an energetic young man of 25. I was the life of the party. The class clown. The gatherer of friends.

Seeing this video had a profound and sad effect on me because I could see how dramatically I have changed. Between the age of 25 and today, I went through some very, very dark times. For several years I felt I had lost everything. I was a terribly sick man. Some of this crisis is explained in the first chapter of my book KNOWN.

I do not dwell on this sadness. I did for years … I don’t now. But on some level, it seems like the unbridled joy I saw in myself at 25 has been beaten out of me. I have been re-wired.

I am actively trying to reclaim this, but today, I’m the person more likely to leave the party rather than start one. I kinda hate that. I was more likable back then.

Is that crazy kid still in there somewhere?

Ways I fail, conclusion

I know this was a strange post. I went off-road on you. Sorry. We’ll return to our previously scheduled programming on the next post.

I suppose this is my attempt to show up as a person instead of a marketing mouthpiece.

Many people I work with are intimidated by their favorite authors and thought leaders. There is a sense that they are in a special class of talent.

They are not.

Nobody started at the top of their field or wields a unique superpower that magically pushes them to the front of the line. Everybody has setbacks. Everybody suffers. Everybody fails. Everybody farts. (WAIT! Did the class clown just show up???)

I think especially now, in this period of extended stress and suffering, we need to just see each other as fellow human beings.

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions. He is the author of several best-selling digital marketing books and is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

Follow Mark on TwitterLinkedIn, and Instagram.

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