Swing for the Fences – It’s ok to fail!

(Especially if you do it spectacularly!)

So I have just come off of a weekend filled with examples of people swinging for the fences. My 3 daughters were in a State Acrobatics Meet where they poured their heart and soul into their routines. We came home from the weekend completely exhausted - as in, I can no longer stand on my feet ... Must. Sit. Now. We collapsed on the couches and enjoyed what is quickly becoming appointment tv for our family time – watching “American Idol.”

Now I am a late bloomer when it comes to American Idol. My husband turned me on to the show just recently. But now my kids (who are all into music as well) and the family sit spellbound watching these two hours of family television each Sunday. What I like about it is that we are not just sitting watching. Or even just listening. I sit back and listen to my family discuss strategy, song choice, audience engagement, performance style, etc. They may see it as fun family time discussing entertainers. What I see - and hear - is a family energized with the idea of pursuing dreams and goals, inspired by people taking chances, learning empathy for those with struggles, and most importantly, learning that things are possible for people who try.


It has me thinking about how important it is to “take the big swing.” Did you choose a job that you are simply settling for, or doing your job in a way that is just settling into your comfort zone? TAKE THE BIG SWING! Your life will become much more rich and fulfilling if you enjoy what you do and are chasing all of your strengths!

DISCLAIMER ALERT – I am NOT recommending draining your bank account or putting your company or family on shaky financial footing to pursue a pipe dream. Far from.

What I AM saying is don’t let fear, complacency or addiction to your comfort zone get in the way of pursuing fulfillment. Being fulfilled and passionate about what you do for a career will make you happier, perform better, earn more money for the company, and improve your work environment. You will get up looking forward to work every day, rather than dreading it.


If you are not willing to do the due diligence that goes with your big swing, then the big swing is not for you. You will not achieve the big swing on desire alone. You can’t decide “You know, I’ve always wanted to sell moon rocks and I’m so passionate about doing it that I am just going to go for it! I’m going to purchase a table and set myself up at the end of the driveway with a cardboard sign and go for it! It’s going to be my new career and I'm going to LOVE IT!” Not the kind of big swing I’m suggesting.

For every “overnite sensation” on American Idol (or anywhere else), there were hours upon hours of singing into hair brushes, performing on street corners, booking gigs at local fairs, bars and birthday parties. Hours upon hours spent doing all the ground work.


In a business setting, pursuing a passion that you need to learn more about can involve whatever approach you prefer for immersing yourself in the world of information, research and hands-on training you will need to be successful:

Old school – school courses, online courses, community college classes, workshops, professional development courses, interns or apprenticeships.

New school – Google to find sources of information. Then chase down every link – every resource, online article, YouTube video, webinar, online communities, tutorials, blogs, articles and books. READ and watch them all – there are no short cuts or CLIFF notes for success.

Get help from industry professionals – Have you been looking at something for your business that will improve your operations, make your life easier, open up a new revenue stream or help you pursue an expansion goal? Talk to the vendors who sell that product! They desperately want to make that sale to you and will even work to educate you on how to use/implement the product so they can make that sale! Especially vendors of new products or technology. They know that in order to increase sales, they must educate while they sell.

But you can’t just sit and listen to a sales pitch. You must start out the conversation with “I am really intrigued by the idea of what this could do for my business. But I am not going to jump into something without understanding it. So if you can go through this with me so I understand what it can do for me, and  you can point me toward resources that will help me make it effective, I will be a lot closer to making this purchase from you.” Then, quiz them. All your concerns, all the areas you don’t understand, all the new questions that pop up from their answers. Also, “Do you have training, how is your tech support / customer support – how quickly can I get my questions answered? Do you have webinars, dedicated support agents, someone who can walk me through the toughest parts of implementation?”

Pick some brains – Start chatting up people you already know and trust who have been down the road (or a similar road) before you. Explain your idea and then say “If you were me, would you do this? If I’m going to attempt it, what do you think will be the hardest part for me? What do you think I need to learn more about before I make this decision? What are some common pitfalls I need to be sure to avoid?”


To be clear, we are talking big swings, not lazy pipe dreams that jeopardize business, employees, money or family. But for those really interested in doing the work, I have never seen anyone regret pushing themselves to be more fulfilled or do better for their company. Even if your dream falls short, you are still way further ahead than if you stayed in your comfort zone. You will be more prepared for the next big swing, more interested in your job, more interesting to those around you, proud of yourself for the new skills you learned and the new connections you have made.


To bring it full circle back to our American Idol analogy, there are now 5 contestants left, and four of them are going to “lose”. They will have given the “Big Swing” and hit the fence. They will have failed. But have they really? We all know the answer is no. Even if they do not go on to be this season’s “American Idol,” they are going to do just fine in life, and most likely in their careers as well.

Do you think Laine Hardy is happier now than when he was just back on the bayou singing to the trees and the alligators and scared to try anything new? Take a look:

Do you think Wade Cota is happier now that America is embracing him and helping him heal from the psychological trauma and self doubt that lingers from the physical abuse he suffered as a child? Do you remember the shock on his face when America showed how much they liked him when they voted for him to be in the top 6, and then the top 4? He is realizing he has value in this world and that the world will embrace him:

Do you think Alejandro Aranda’s confidence has soared now that he realizes that his mad genius, incredible work ethic and humble attitude will take him past being just a regional favorite to a full-fledged, fully-adored artist? That his brand of crazy, scary good genius may be just what America didn’t know they needed? 

How about Madison Vandeburg, who has learned to be a completely fearless, fierce force of nature at just 16 (turned 17)? Her incredible pipes and her fearlessness will no doubt both serve her very well in life:

Finally, whether you like the smoky sounds of Laci Kaye Booth, or were utterly heartbroken (like me) when Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon was eliminated last night, you have to agree that they are both in a brighter spot in life because they pursued their dreams:

So will there be “losers”? Yes. Are any of them really “losers”? No!!! I’m sure all of them would say they are glad they took the Big Swing in their careers.

I know that I am certainly glad they did, because they all inspire us to do better and be bigger. Jeremiah - you have inspired me, so your "loss" is my gain! (And you get a few extra video posts from me!)  

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