Anxiety, Contribution, and Learning

A friend is moving into a new job assignment. He is feeling some anxiety. He and my son Shawn were talking about the challenge. He wrote of the conversation and how it shaped him. I believe he gives us an important lesson.

At one point, Shawn told me about a man who tried hard to create a positive culture in his workplace.  At the end of a dynamic year, he said, “I have failed more this past year than ever before.  And I have succeeded more than ever before.”  As I listened to Shawn, I felt a strong attraction to this idea: to grow professionally, I need to try new things, fail, and learn from failure so I can succeed in more meaningful ways.

I listed all the bureaucratic constraints I would soon be facing. Shawn asked me about my purpose statement, and we discussed the notion that it continually evolves as we understand it better.  I shared some stories.  Shawn noticed an important detail: in addition to organizing innovative, collective efforts, I seemed to be at my best when I was listening carefully to and learning the needs of the people around me.  This idea opened something within me.  It gave me a clear place to start in any anxiety-inducing situation: first, listen deeply. 

As I considered entering my new job, I determined to listen deeply and serve my new colleagues in small and simple ways.  As I forget myself, cast out my fears, and work hard to learn, I will build honest relationships of trust and love. I will come to understand the needs of the individuals and the organization.  As I do this, I will counsel together with my new colleagues regarding our path forward. 



  • To what extent do you believe the following proposition; “To grow professionally, I need to try new things, fail, and learn from failure so I can succeed in more meaningful ways.”
  • Why is it natural to feel anxiety when we enter a new challenge?
  • Why is it helpful to clarify our strengths and our contributive purpose?
  • How can we use this passage to create a more positive organization?

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