Rub some dirt on it

March 24, 2015By Views

by Dave Wendland, as seen in Healthcare Distributor magazine, Out of the Box column

December 2014/January 2015

Although I don’t actually recall my father or mother ever using the phrase, "Rub some dirt on it," I’m sure many readers can attest to such encouragements. Honestly, I haven’t heard it lately, and admittedly, I never encouraged my own children to be that tough, but maybe it’s time to bring that mindset back.

Why? As a nation we have become too soft due to "political correctness," "social mores," or simple complacency. Today’s children have a certain sense of entitlement that permits them to avoid disappointment which doesn’t allow them to learn from missteps. And it is this softness that concerns me about the future workforce.

If we insist on creating impenetrable bubbles around the younger population and build safety nets that prevent their falls and shield them from experiencing failure, their growth may become stunted.

During a recent business flight I had the pleasure of sitting next to a retired judge. He shared with me stories of his time on the bench and the transformation he observed over the years of those prosecuted, including the degrees of acceptance and personal responsibility taken. He commented that many political figures, business leaders, clergy, and other prominent figures stood before him in court struggling with a mistake they made. And, with very few exceptions, those that accepted personal accountability for their actions and committed to self-improvement or behavior modification were able to recover more strongly. Those that cast blame and felt victimized experienced career stagnation.

Recovering from a mistake, we agreed, was one of the best ways to discover more about one’s self and more wisely make future choices and decisions.

When it comes to business and innovation, I love Google’s philosophy. Paraphrasing what I have heard from their senior leadership, they encourage their staff to "Fail fast and recover quickly!" Wouldn’t it be refreshing to have the opportunity in your current business environment to have the untethered freedom to experiment, try new things, and … make mistakes? I once worked with a business development executive within our own company who was occasionally like a bull in a china shop, yet I admired his drive and conviction. His mantra was simple: "It’s often easier to beg forgiveness than to ask permission."

What would your company look like if you could forge ahead on an idea and try it? Hewlett-Packard once ran an entire advertising campaign entitled, "What if?" It’s a philosophy we endeavor to employ within HRG, but I must admit, not dissimilar to other organizations, there have been times when we have become paralyzed by analysis. I believe that the pace of today’s business not only requires nimbleness, inventiveness, and courage, but rather mandates it.

So, I have a personal goal to fail fast and when I fall – and I will – I plan to rub some dirt on it and get back up to try again.

By the way, the colloquial phrase "rub some dirt on it" appears to have some medicinal merit. In 2013 researchers at Arizona State University confirmed that certain clays actually have properties that can kill certain pathogens ranging from E. Coli to MRSA. Some words of caution: not all clays and dirt are actually good for wounds; therefore please don’t start literally rubbing dirt on your wounds. Figuratively speaking, I see no harm in it.

Leave a Reply