Epic fails and lessons in writing from the school of hard knocks

Mark Zuckerberg

This week, on the 14th anniversary of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg shared a posted about his failures. He wrote, “Over the years I’ve made almost every mistake you can imagine. I’ve made dozens of technical errors and bad deals. I’ve trusted the wrong people and I’ve put talented people in the wrong roles. I’ve missed important trends and I’ve been slow to others. I’ve launched product after product that failed.”

There are many days when I feel like an epic failure as a writer (or mother, or wife for that matter). The other day I read something I wrote a year ago. It was crap.

Writing for someone else’s voice is probably one of the hardest things for a writer to do. I need to do this a lot in my work. Here are some of my epic failures in writing over the course of my career.

  • Assuming someone’s spoken voice is the same as their written voice. I worked with one leader who was personable, funny and engaging in person, but whose written prose was formal and stilted.
  • Creating a narrative that wasn’t the narrative of the person giving the presentation. I prepared a presentation once for a leader and weaved a theme through it that I thought would resonate with the audience, using references to popular culture. It fell flat because it was my narrative, not their narrative.
  • Not using enough stories in my writing and not digging harder to find stories. Everyone has a story.
  • Slipping into corporate puffery. If something I’ve written sounds like a company wrote it, not a person, I’ve failed at my job, and I have.
  • Being too wordy.
  • Not being able to convince people to use clear language; people will often default to language they are used to or think others want to hear.

Yes, I have failed miserably time and time again. But there is one thing that makes me happy. I’m in good company.

 

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Always see with your heart

Facebook this morning is full of images and RIP messages for a very special golden retriever: Smiley.

Smiley was born without eyes, and a rare condition that made him look like he smiled all the time. He worked as a therapy dog bringing joy and happiness to everyone he met. His owners had to put him down yesterday.

His owners posted this yesterday, “The little dog with a big heart and a grand purpose left us today at 12:30pm. In Smiley’s honour, please be kind to one another, give back, and always see with your heart.”

This week’s #HappyAct is to always see with your heart and keep smiling. RIP Smiley.

Simple words to live by to create happiness

 

fulgence weddingYesterday, our friend Fulgence Mrosso got married. It makes me smile to even think about it.

We met Fulgence two years ago when Dave and I went to Tanzania. Fulgence was our guide and we spent many hours on our long safari drives in the Serengeti talking about love and marriage. Fulgence was a bit of a skeptic and I had told him he needed help finding love and jokingly promised to sign him up as the next TV Batchelor. At the time, he seemed to like the idea of dating 25 women at once.

The Facebook photos of the big day show him smiling, scooping his bride up in his arms and looking as blissfully happy as any groom on his wedding day.

Fulgence once wrote on his Facebook page,

“Every little smile can touch somebody’s heart. No one is born happy but all of us are born with the ability to create happiness. Be happy always.”

This week’s #HappyAct is to remember the beauty and truth of this simple philosophy and send someone this week a special wish. Mine is to Fulgence and his beautiful new bride: may you be happy always.

couple and guide beside a jeep

Wear the same t-shirt every day

mark_zuckerbergI read an article recently where Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was asked why he wore the same gray t-shirt every day.

His answer might surprise you. He said, “I really want to clear my life to make it so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve this community… I feel like I’m not doing my job if I spend any of my energy on things that are silly or frivolous about my life.”

In a world where celebrity weddings cost millions, stylists reign supreme, and even the average person needs a walk-in closet for their clothes, we can all take a page from the Facebook founder’s philosophy.

This week’s #HappyAct is to do one thing to simplify your life so you can focus on what’s really important. And if you see me wearing the same pair of black pants every day next week, pretend you don’t notice.

The Happy Act blog

Welcome to my blog. This blog is a new adventure for me. Each week, I’ll explore something that makes me happy and issue a weekly challenge we can do together—one Happy Act that will hopefully help you feel happy too.

Confession time. I’m not a psychologist. I’m not a Super Susie type, you know the kind of person that is so happy and positive all the time, it drives you crazy. I’m not even that great a writer.

So why should you embark on this journey with me? I can’t give you a good reason other than why not? If doing one happy act a week brings a bit more happiness into your life and into the world, then isn’t it worth it? Because happiness is not something we aspire to, it’s not a destination. You don’t find it. The phrase the pursuit of happiness is hogwash. Happiness is a state of being, and to be happy, you need to do little acts of happiness.

This week’s Happy Act is to call an old friend. Meet them for coffee, call them on the phone or send them a message on Facebook or LinkedIn. It will feel good to connect with them again. Here’s a picture of us catching up with some old friends who moved to Edmonton and who we hadn’t seen in seven years.

Catching up with old friends