Birthday Celebrations, Ralph Heath Celebrates Failure

We are celebrating family birthdays this weekend; Ralph Heath tells us to celebrate failure.

January is a big birthday month for our family.

In a development I am still trying to assimilate, Aidan turned 17 on January 4.

My brother Mike turned 43 on January 10.

Had he lived, Dr. King would have turned 81 today (I am thinking of him as part of the human family).

And my brother Jon turns 40 tomorrow.

Mike arrived last night for the first night of a four-day birthday celebration extravaganza that promises to have more events that many weddings.

Here’s the agenda:

Last night: dinner at a Pan-Asian restaurant

Today: A visit to the Art Institute and dinner with family and friends (Mike’s girlfriend Annie flies in tonight at 6:00 p.m).

Tomorrow: An immigration rights rally or film, barbeque and a party at Carlos J.Ortiz’s studio.

Sunday: Dim sum and afternoon basketball.

In short, we’ve got a full agenda.

While our celebrations will focus on Jon’s milestone’s birthday as well as Mike and Aidan’s events, Ralph Heath has written a book about a different type of celebration.

Written largely for managers, Celebrating Failure is a business book that has possible applications to one’s personal life.  Heath’s essential message is to embrace the making of, and learning from, errors.

Heath draws on a wide range of sources and experiences to advance his thesis.  The chapter epigraphs include quotes from hockey coach Fred Shero, and the individual chapters are as likely to contain lessons he learned from his father or during his 30 years in marketing.

It is important to note that Heath’s point is not so much the making of mistakes, per se, but rather the cultivation of a risk-taking, fearless and candid environment in which people push themselves beyond their perceived limits and are willing to assess how to improve.   Like many other business writers, Heath emphasizes the value of leading by example, the critical nature of trusting relationships and the importance of work-life balance.

Heath also makes a distinction between failure and quitting, drawing on Winston Churchill to assert that failure implies completion and that quitting is a habit that one should never begin.

Celebrating Failure does not contain revolutionary or earth-shattering ideas, but it does reflect the hard-earned experience of a long-time worker and triathlete who has come to realize that failure is something to be prized, not shunned.

I hope this weekend is a success. And, if it isn’t, at least I’ll have some recent reading to use for the next celebration.

After all, I turn 45 in October.


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