Remember back in February, I shared with you that we were redoing the stairs in our house? It was an interesting project, because we had to wait until everyone was ready. You can’t be redoing stairs in a household with young children, or the elderly, or anyone else who relies on a handrail for safety. We talked about how that mentality is important for leaders to keep in mind with their teams — that when you plan a project, ask yourself if it’s really the right time. Is everyone ready? Or would it be better to tackle something else first?
Well, irony can be a wonderful teacher.
While I stand by that blog post — and I do think that’s an important thing for leaders to consider — our stair project taught our family (ok, me) something else.
You can prepare all you want (and it’s important to do so), but there will always be risks. Always.
Case in point: the weekend after that first blog post went live, I fell off of the stairs.
I fell, knocking over our china cabinet on my way down, shattering about ⅔ of all of our crystal and china, before landing on a pile of tools. Now, despite landing dangerously close to the blade of a Japanese saw, physically I was completely fine. Bruised, but fine. A fact which I am endlessly grateful for — it could have been so much worse. But…it could have been better, too. I could have not fallen off the ledge. I could have not destroyed thousands of dollars worth of crystal. And I could have lived a lifetime without the bruise to my ego. But apparently, after writing that blog post, I was the one who wasn’t ready!
Here’s the thing, though: I was ready. I am a fully capable adult human who is perfectly ready to go up and down stairs with no handrail. Unfortunately, the reality of our human existence is that “shit happens.” Mistakes happen. I could not have predicted this. Certainly we all knew it was a risk; even in a household of very able-bodied people, falling is always a risk. We forge ahead anyways. What’s the alternative? Never taking a shower for fear of slipping on the soap? Never attempting to do anything of significance, ever, for fear of getting hurt or making a mistake? You can mitigate and plan all you want, but shit still happens. And once it does, you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube. You can’t glue the shattered china back together again. And that’s part of the problem with leadership: we think if we mitigate “all” the risks, it will definitely go well. We think we have a guarantee. When it doesn’t go well, as is bound to happen at least occasionally, we want someone to blame. In my case (and many leaders do this) it was me.
I could blame myself (and part of me does). But I didn’t do it with intention. I didn’t want to do it. I’m not a careless person — it’s not that I don’t care about my own home or safety or our wedding crystal. We often think major mistakes mean someone doesn’t care, or isn’t engaged. But sometimes an accident is just an accident. We have grace, we pick ourselves up, and we keep going.
And we finish the staircase.