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Sprinkle in a little failure

One of my favorite leadership authors is Max DePree, author of “Leadership Jazz” and “Leadership is an Art”. For those of you not from West MI, Mr. DePree was the CEO the furniture company Herman Miller in the ‘80s but had been in leadership roles for many years as the son of the Founder. For me, he was also the Grandfather to some of my closest childhood friends. Only later in life, did I discover my friends’ grandfather would inspire me to this degree. His business books have been very influential for me as he offers a take on "success" that looks much different that what you will find in many other business books.

I was recently reading one of his books and found a gem that resonated with me. Ironically this quote is contextualized by Mr. DePree’s feeling that leadership can’t be taught by a book.

"...but real preparation [for leadership] consists of hard work and wandering in the desert, of much feedback, much forgiveness, and the yeast of failure." (Leadership Jazz, 1992, DePree)

This excerpt is encouraging, because I personally can often be very hard on myself when things don't go the way that I want them to. It becomes easy for me to dwell on the negative instead of focusing on what could be positive — an invaluable learning experience.

The physical representation of failure as "yeast" hits home for me as a hobbyist homebrewer and sourdough baker. I also love the apt analogy that it can provide for failure. Failures and/or disappointments, like yeast, can be cultivated then added to other ingredients to make something greater than the sum of its parts. If you choose to, you can learn from these experiences, and grow just like a rising dough!

Matt Clark