Learning From Personal Failures

My dear friend Jim Clinton, who is CEO of the Cenla Advantage Partnership, wrote a stirring piece today that I wanted to share with you. (In case you are among the uninitiated, “Cenla” is Central Louisiana.)

He writes, in part:

A few minutes ago, I heard a cry, close to a scream. It was repeated and repeated again. Couldn’t tell if it was a child or a cat, but I don’t hear many cries from either here on the second floor of The Rapides Foundation Building. I went to my window overlooking Johnston Street. I was just in time to see a woman walking with two boys, ages approximately two and four. She was holding the smaller child’s hand and I watched, she hit him hard in the face. A couple more steps and she hit him again. Three more steps and a repeat. I don’t know how many hits preceded this.

How do I work this?” I thought, referring to my conscience, my responsibility to civilization, etc. I shook off the cobwebs, ran down the stairs and into the street. I followed the threesome at some distance on Johnston towards the river. They boarded a shuttle and vanished.

Jim follows this with a meditation on his own relationship to spanking as a parent of grown children, who now has a later-in-life child to rear. He gives a wonderful explanation of how, and why, his views have evolved. I urge you to read it.

But it was the wrenching scene out his window that struck me to the bone. I know that feeling — knowing you need to do something, not sure you can, hesitating, and finally sometimes sadly missing out on the opportunity as it vanishes. How many times have we faced such a thing, and then recalled and relived the event, only this time with faster reflexes, or with surer voice? How many times do we replay what we wish we had said?

For me, the episode that stands out is a time long ago when I was in a position to hire someone. A superior convinced me to avoid the person I thought the best candidate because of something  benign that came up in the applicant’s background during the interview process.

Fearful of making waves, I did not stick to my guns. I offered someone else the job, and they did great. But I lacked courage. This was a weak decision that haunts me even now — from which I try to learn daily and draw strength from. I hope never again to stay silent as I did.

I want to thank my friend Jim for reopening this doorway and spurring me to reflect on this episode, and allowing me to renew this intention.

3 thoughts on “Learning From Personal Failures”

  1. Brad,

    Jim is a pal of mine and so I can feel and see his experience … been in his office. I give a presentation called, “The Voice” … and its all about this subject. About hearing that whisper that flows in one ear and stirs an instantaneous emotion … and then we pause … and then in the other ear the “don’t get involved” whisper ensues. This can be as simple as walking out of the room and the umbrella speaking, “Hey … take me with you.” … pause … “that’s goofy its pretty skies”. On the trip back you are left stranded in a monsoon. Or … like Jim’s case it can be life-changing. I have never written about this so please bear with me … My worst was in Mexico at three in the morning in a dark bar chaperoning high school seniors … came around the corner and a US girl who had been drinking (too much) was screaming over the deafening music as she was getting dragged into the darkness by an elderly group of local males … her under clothes being removed in the process. The gasp and shock, “help her!” … and no one was doing anything but sitting and trying not to look. So … I sat … and the other ear screamed, “don’t get involved you idiot … you will be killed in a foreign country!” … thank goodness the God Voice screamed louder, “that could be YOUR daughter”. I jumped up and punched the lead guy out and grabbed the girl … then heard the scariest sound in my life … that of many chairs rattling across the floor as the quiet audience was jumping to life. I knew I was a dead man … thank the God of Courage … they all came forward to help … and said, “we wanted to help but were too scared to do anything.” I believe that moving with the positive “Voice of Courage” can never be wrong. Quite frankly, as a country I think it is what made us great … and am afraid we have lost most of our hearing now! Thanks to you and Jim for the good piece(s) … inspired me!

  2. i don’t believe in “gods” of any sort, but i do have a strong sense of right and wrong and a protective nature that is highly attuned to abuse and injustice. i have said things at times, maybe not as quickly or as loudly as i might have, should have.

    every day provides opportunities to right wrongs. thanks to you three for reminding me to be present for them.

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