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Set Up for Failure: How Will We Create a Successful End Story?


I could feel it in my bones.

I tried to warn them ahead of time. I foresaw the colossal mess before they even dreamt of its existence.

Much like the silent connection between soulmates or a mother’s intuition for danger, the feeling was impossible to ignore. I sensed the calamity – it’s warning just a faint, eerie whisper dancing in the breeze.

But it didn’t begin that way. When leadership first approached me, I was confident I could conquer their request. Despite their impending reservations, they entrusted me to stick a flag in the earth atop Mount Everest. And I would.

That is, had I not been set up for failure.

I didn’t have the right equipment, enough information and minimal support for something that had never been done before. Yet, it was my job to figure it out – even if others before me had refused the challenge.

We’ve all had that gut-wrenching feeling – the one that no amounts of convincing can make us believe that “The End” will ever be a success story.

Work expects a colorful, life-changing presentation on a controversial topic that’s never been addressed. We’ve been set up on a blind date with a guy with which we share a morsel of life in common. Or... we’re hosting dinner for new friends while nursing a child suffering double ear infections.

How will we ever survive it?

It’s hard to recognize the glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel when we’re forcibly blinded by what’s staring us in the face. And, even if we do survive, we’ll walk out of the flames with life-lasting scars to remind us of these undeniable failures.

Then again, is that so bad?

When we examine our bodies for scars and bruises, will they serve as a blemish of blame or a reminder of the impossible we once defeated? Might we find humor in a moment that sent our pulse racing, but was washed from our memory but a week later?

These moments of torment teach us how to take another step. They remind us of the sheer strength we carry in our bones – and the lessons learned that made them so steadfast. These very struggles are the ones that bend our toxic beliefs and create confidence for the future.

After all, how will anyone trust us if we don’t first have the courage to believe in ourselves?

Perhaps, if we hope for the best and cast shadows on the worst, we might succeed. We might just give an impactful presentation, fall for the unexpected or meet incredible friends who lift us up in trying times.

With our lives constantly in flux, we can’t control every – or rather, any – moment in time. But what we can control is the story we so hurriedly draft in our minds. On autopilot, our brains might generate the worst-case scenario, sending signals to berate ourselves.

But when we take a breathe, causing the gears to slow, might we give ourselves a little grace in these new situations. We may even come out on the other side – a smile fixed on our faces and a badge of pride pinned to our chest.

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