“Great dreams aren’t just visions—they’re visions coupled to strategies to make them real.”
~ Astro Teller, Google “X”
While driving the other day I happened to catch an NPR radio interview with a man named Astro Teller (really, that’s his name!). Astro works for a Google offshoot called “X” which is basically a “think tank” for extremely outrageous possibilities to incubate. It is a place to experiment with “yet to be discovered” ideas that, if successful, would benefit mankind. Wow! That’s what I would call a challenge—wouldn’t you?
But that in itself is not what caught my attention. What got me excited was that the premise of this “experimenting factory” was the title of a Ted Talk that Teller had given in 2016 called: “The unexpected benefits of celebrating failure”. I couldn’t wait to get home to my computer to listen to the whole talk. For years, I have been talking to women attending my classes at the domestic violence shelter about what I call “the courage to fail”.
This is not a new concept. Maxwell Maltz talked about humans having the ability to “self-correct” their course when they mess up while aiming for a personal goal. He wrote his book, Psycho-Cybernetics in the ’60s when America was first sending to space experimental rockets trying to reach the moon. In fact, Google’s “X” calls their messy experimental team projects “Moonshots” and, better yet, they reward project teams for failure. How does this make sense and how does this relate to domestic violence healing?
When a DV victim first enters a shelter their life, emotions and soul is in utter chaos. They are terrified, angry, sad and confused—basically, everything seems to be in tatters. These feelings, however real, do NOT define who they truly are. Who they truly are is COURAGEOUS! I tell them: “You are complete, but you are not finished. You have within you everything you need to find a joyful, successful life.”
Using the metaphor of the house as representing their body, mind and spirit, one of the first exercises they do once they lift the roof off of their house and begin to “remodel” their “inner dwelling,” is to start identifying both the things (traits) that are working in their life and, more important, what traits are not working. This is not an easy task. It takes a lot of deep introspection and thoughtful quiet examination of oneself to even begin to put positive traits in one column and less desirable ones in the other—it sometimes takes several weeks of looking inward to admit to negative ones and even more time to acknowledge positive strengths when your feelings of self-worth are at the lowest at this time of your life. I know because I have been there. It takes enormous courage to move from obsessing about your abuser to move on to concentrate on just you—on healing you! His problems are his.
But as Astro Teller says: “Discovering a major flaw…doesn’t mean that it ends a project. Sometimes it gets you on to a more productive path”. In other words, when one is able to identify the flaw, it shifts your perspective. “Sometimes shifting your perspective is more important than being smart.” When you zero in on what is not working, you can better begin to visualize what IS working and can better create a vision for how to move forward, how to construct your dream house. The great dream needs a plan (strategy) to make it real.
It seems risky, makes us uncomfortable and vulnerable to “run at the hardest part of the problem first—see what works and, more importantly, what fails,” as project “X” team members do. But this is the very essence of self-examination and having personal insight into our failures so that we can learn from them, balance them against our strengths, flow with them to the next idea, enjoy our diversity and then, above all odds, we flourish!