A few weeks ago, my niece and I took a pottery wheel class. Neither of us had ever done anything like this before so we were both a little nervous that we were going to make total fools of ourselves! We showed up for the class and our instructor, Caroline, put us at ease right away. She said, “Your goal today is to make something kind of round.” Surely, I could achieve that.
She modeled the whole process slowly for us until finally, it was our turn to try it out. I threw my clay on the wheel and started trying to center it, just like Caroline said. Next was making a cone and then squashing it down and then pulling out the walls in an attempt to make some kind of round container. I ended up pulling my walls out way too far and I got a very wobbling-looking dish with super thin edges that wouldn’t stay up straight. “That’s it.” I thought, “I messed mine up.” But Caroline came right over. “No worries,” she said, “just use your hands to shape it back into a cone again and you can start over. This is how you learn.”
Whoa. Of course – this is how I learn. I’ve never sat at a potter’s wheel and tried to make something round before. Why did I have this expectation that I needed to make something beautiful and perfect on my first try? And Caroline set up an environment from her very first instruction (your goal today is to make something kind of round) that made it feel safe to learn, ask questions, try, fail, and try again. Suddenly, working with clay felt like a beautiful life lesson and reminded me of one of my favorite quotes: “There is no innovation or creativity without failure. Period.” – Brene Brown
Special shout-out to http://potterylanegr.com/ and Caroline for all of their help!
Do you expect things to be beautiful and perfect on your first try?
Are you hold your direct reports to that standard?
Where in your life/work could experimenting (and even failing) lead to learning, innovation, and new thinking?
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