The Celebration Mindset Pt. 1 – Taking Resilience to the Next Level

Originally published here for the Institute of Organizational Mindfulness.

A true person of service lives and works in constant readiness for celebration. I can see this principal getting misinterpreted by my former bar and restaurant colleagues as something to the effect of bartenders doing shots with the clientele. But you’re onto something here: real success in service can be had from this willingness to celebrate…just in ways you wouldn’t normally expect.

That is why drinking with restaurant guests can often serve as a decent relationship catalyst – celebration has a tremendous transformative power. It’s especially needed when we get met with situations that we really don’t want to celebrate (and would probably default to being discouraged…or even hateful). This series is going to look at celebration not as the revelrous out-loud practice we might expect, but its value as a subtle inner mode where we meet everything with verve, acceptance and the understanding that it has value – especially the most painful experiences.

I’ve written about how easy it is to make mistakes in the service role. Even though many successful people emphasize the value that mistakes have to the learning and growth process, we know how painful they can be (especially if you care about doing something well). Since learning to manage this pain allows space for more growth and resilience, we looked at how to meet mistakes with self-compassion instead of self-criticism. But what if we took this farther?

In 2012, Sarah Blakely became the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire. And she swears that a big contribution to her success was her father’s enthusiasm for mistakes. As a kid coming home from school, he would ask hopefully, “Did you make any mistakes today?” He became almost deflated if the answer was “no”, but lit up with pride and curiosity any time mistakes were cited. Imagine that: living in an environment that celebrates mistakes.

For most people, this must sound radical. It’s probably a complete inversion of whatever paranoid conditioning we’ve taken on about mistakes. Whether it’s our influences (work, home, school) or our own internalization of performance standards (or both), we are holding our minds hostage to a delusion that a single disapproval from others could cost us everything. In fact, not only do most mistakes cost us nothing, they always serve up more value than the discomfort they cause.

Upbringings like Blakely’s reveal that the only painful parts of mistakes are “my-stakes” – the importance you placed on performing a certain way. A mistake is not some absolute failure adjudicated by the divine committee of fuckuppery. It’s just a feeling you’re having based on whether the outcomes aligned with certain expectations you had in that moment.

It’s one thing to simply opt out of persecuting yourself – maybe instead opting for the friendly ol’ “it’s okay fella, you’re only human.” But think about the mentality that relishes the nectar of that experience! You’d think it’s one that gives itself permission to be sloppy and careless. However, it’s clear that it actually encourages disciplined, motivated, industry-shifting-billionaire behavior.

How? Well, don’t worry, you can never actually incentivize a mistake since successes always feel better. What gets embraced is not the experience of the mistake (which, at the very least, is uncomfortable in the moment), but the opportunity it provides – for awareness, attention to the right places that need refinement, and new possibilities of doing something that weren’t previously available to us. And it makes us approach challenges readily because we’re not living in fear of the lashing we’re ready to give ourselves if things don’t go as planned.

In the next article we are going to explore the joys of celebrating your “faults”.