I spent the summer between my junior and senior years of college in a small village in East Thailand.
While in Thailand, I got a small glimpse into the world of the Kui people. And because they are so kind and hospitable, they invited me into their lives. One day, while walking through the village, I passed a lady spinning silk. In the corner of her workspace was a large boiling pot. She invited me to visit, excited to show me the process. I walked over to the pot and was treated to the sight of once-wriggling silk worms, now being prepared to become part of the silk weaving process. Perhaps because she could tell I would do anything she asked, or perhaps because I was a foreigner, she invited me to try a silkworm. And by “try” I mean “eat while she stared at me.”
As far as exotic foods go, it was on the mild side (as opposed to my adventure years later with sheep brain in Oman). It tasted like a potato. Yes, the texture was a bit unappealing, but I feel the same way about the texture of rice pudding. The biggest challenge wasn’t eating the silk worm, it was eating the silk worm while having the kind lady stare at me and knowing that I could not make a disgusted face or spit it out. I could not fail in front of her.
Flash forward six years later and I’ve been offered to lead an exciting project. What was scary about the offer wasn’t the project itself, but knowing that so many people would be watching….watching me perhaps fail to successfully lead the project through its launch.
A recent article on Forbes, “The 7 Rules Holding You Back in Life,” lists “Avoid Failure” as a key behavior that holds people back in their careers. The problem with avoiding failure is that it keeps you from taking the risk — the risky assignment, the risking job —because you cannot be certain you won’t fail while everyone watches. So instead, you protect yourself from embarrassment by avoiding the uncertain completely. You may have passed up a great career move, but at least you didn’t fail.
I’d never eaten a silk worm before Thailand, and I haven’t since. I wasn’t certain I’d be able to keep it down, with a smile on my face and not offend the lady offering me the treat. But I did. It was a life experience that may have presented itself only at that moment and never again.
You’re not dealing with whether to eat a silk worm, except of course metaphorically. You’re dealing to whether or not to accept a job offer that’s outside of your comfort zone, or lead a project that you know will have executive exposure. Whatever your situation, don’t let the possibly of failure keep you from avoiding the possibility of success and, in any case, a moment to learn.
And if you are in Thailand, try a silk worm. They taste like potatoes — promise!Tags: Business,Leadership