The Failure Bow

Yesterday I made myself a nice salad for lunch.  Mixed greens, honey roasted chicken, shredded cheese, bell peppers and a homemade balsamic dressing.  I was really excited to savor it, to taste its goodness.  I grabbed an empty glass to pour myself a glass of water and set it down next to my salad.  Then I took the britta filter and started to pour out the clear refreshing water… INTO MY SALAD.  Crap!  I can’t believe I did that!  I cringed internally.  Why am I so dumb?  I quickly corrected my mistake and poured into the right container, then I ate my soggy salad.

Have you ever beat yourself up over making a mistake?  Maybe it was a big one, maybe it was a little one…  Me too.  Frequently in fact, and I am just starting to get some sense that perhaps there is a better way to respond than my typical internal beat down.

I believe that Jesus died for my sins and rose from the dead and because of that I am covered by His grace.  But that fact always seems to feel pretty hard to grasp right after I have made some kind of mistake.  There is new research that suggests how we respond with our bodies (a deep bow with a goofy grin vs. cringing or curling up into a ball) will affect how we feel in our minds.  Its called the failure bow.

So next time we make mistakes, lets celebrate them with a bow.

And for those of you who might wish to make a culture change in your organization. Consider this variation from Ted DesMaisons:

I invite my students to come up in front of the group one at a time, root themselves firmly on stage with a good, wide, athletic stance and a playful smile. Each movement from there will get its own bold assertion.

1) Extending the right arm out in a bold sweep: I took a risk!

2) Extending the left arm in similar fashion: I messed up!

3) Bringing their fingers to the chest: I’m still here!

4) Flinging both arms out and raising them triumphantly to the sky: Let’s learn!

And, of course, we’ll respond with wild applause.

For all of the mistakes you have learned from in the course of your life, I applaud you.


4 thoughts on “The Failure Bow

  1. Hi there, 4 in all things.

    Thanks for this post! I love your salad example and it’s great to hear how faith can reinforce resilience. I, too, imagine that Jesus would have as much capacity to forgive our little mistakes as well as the big ones. That’s the nature of unconditional love, eh? I’m doing some more thinking and writing now about how we relate to failure too–I’d be interested to hear your thoughts once I get the piece done and posted over at my WordPress blog. (It may not go up for a while because I’m writing it for an alumni magazine and they may want first publishing dibs.)

    One note of clarification, if I might: while I most certainly do owe much of what I know about improv to Patricia Ryan Madson, the last variation of the failure bow you mention in this piece is actually one I came up with this past year. If other folks have other ideas about how to improve it or experiment with it, I’d love for them to be able to track me down.


    Ted DesMaisons

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