On vacation this summer, I learned a valuable lesson about failure and being hard on myself. I’m sharing it, hoping some of you can relate.
The Quintessential Father/Sons Fishing Trip
I wanted to take my sons Will and Ben out fishing. I did the appropriate research and landed on a company with great reviews. In my mind, the boys would have the time of their life. I was going to the #bestdadever!
We were all psyched as we pulled out of the harbor and headed to the fishing spot. I was not concerned until the boat headed to the open ocean. After all, this was not supposed to be “deep sea” fishing, so I did not know what the Captain was up to. Was he just giving us a glimpse of the open water?
A mile and a half into our journey, Will gave me “the look” that kids give. It is kind of like “the look” my wife gives, the kind that you don’t need to interpret. The kind that you immediately know there is a problem. Onward we went, however, for another 1.5 miles.
“Here we are at an old shipwreck,” the Captain said.
How cool is that, I thought? The waves, however, tossed me to the side of the boat like a little crumb falling from the ice cream cone my kids would eat later that day. My next thought was, “How long will this last?”
Kudos to the Captain regarding the volume of fish at the shipwreck. We caught fish after fish in the ~13 minutes we were there. The Captain even claimed I had a shark on my line for .23 seconds — the best .23 seconds of my life, an admission that would undoubtedly cause my wife to give me “the look.”
Ben’s “look” came next. “Dad, I don’t feel well.” It was at this moment that I went into sales mode. “Captain,” I said, “we have a problem.” Captain informed me that his experiences are about “reef” fishing, which I admittedly misinterpreted not to be “deep sea fishing.” I can occasionally hit 300-yard drives, but I have a “25” handicap for fishing. However, I don’t care who’s to blame when seasickness is on the line. I owned my mistake and said he was getting paid regardless, but we needed land in a hurry! After looking at Ben’s face, the Captain knew his mission had been redefined. I later learned that he’s happily married and understands “looks” too.
The Joy of Unexpected Delight
Ten minutes later, we were back in calmer waters, and the seas lessened considerably. The Captain asked Ben if he could fish there. Ben, of course, rebounded. The next few hours, we had fun fishing, although our success rate decreased considerably. And while we saw a small shark, none were hooked, much to my chagrin.
Then something happened that I did not expect. While moving from one spot to the next, the Captain let both boys have a turn at the helm. Both were legitimately excited, and Ben had us looping around like he wanted us to be sick this time. His smile is something that words simply can’t describe.
What Does this Experience Make Possible?
As I retell this story, however, I have to confess something. During this moment I did not feel like the morning had gone well. I am embarrassed to admit that when Sarah asked how the morning went, I said it was a failure. I felt like I had failed Will, Ben, my father-in-law who had joined us, and even the Captain. Sarah reminded me that the Captain did not care as he was getting paid.
Isn’t it alarming how negativity prevented me from seeing what was really going on and also led me to think things were much worse than they were?
Ben, however, had rolled with the punches. He had lived out a credo I learned from Michael Hyatt, “What does this experience make possible?”
Ben got it.
I had missed it.
I learned that I am so hard on myself about parenting, leadership, golf, and just about everything — even planning a once-a-year, 1/2-day fishing experience. It would be like someone who never plays golf getting mad at themselves for hitting bad shots, an occurrence that happens all the time at my local golf course!
Yet, if I look for it — if you look for it — there is something good to find.
You have to look for it, not just what you had hoped for.
When Things Don’t Go According to Plan
The video of Ben driving that boat will be something I will think about when I am 80 years old. It never would have happened if we had sea legs and if things had gone to “Dad’s plan.”
A few days later, as the vacation wrapped up, my in-laws asked all 14 of us what our best moment was.
Ben’s? “Driving that boat.”
Writing this post made me realize it was mine, too.