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The Power of Dumb – I Shot Myself in the Head

I’ve done things that make Tweedledee and Tweedledum look like Einstein and Edison. Like the day I shot myself in the head.

It all happened while teaching our boys to safely shoot a BB gun.

I fastened the target to a piece of plywood and leaned it against the shed behind our house. After pacing off about 10 steps I turned to demonstrate how to safely shoot.

I can still see the BB ricocheting back at me. It bounced off the plywood and hit me in the forehead between the eyes. Thankfully, it didn’t break the skin. The boys didn’t see and I didn’t say anything.

I almost shot my eye out. We found a softer backstop for the target!

The 5 powers of sharing your dumb-story:

#1. Trust.

Don’t trust great pretenders – the people who never make mistakes.

You can trust someone who tells you how dumb they’ve been.

#2. Courage.

When you laugh and learn from dumb mistakes, you help teams overcome self-defeating fear of failure.


Begin your next meeting by revealing one of your many dumb-stories. Pick a doozy. Laugh at yourself. Share a lesson.

Make a dumb-story schedule.

Ask each member of your team to tell their own dumb-story. Include a lesson. If you have five team members you have an opener for your next five meetings.

#3. Solidarity.

Mistake-making connects us. We know we’re all alike in some ways.

#4. Endorsement.

I feel like I might belong if the people on the team have done dumb things.

#5. Humility.

Humility grows a garden of success. Arrogance never lets go of you, but humbling yourself strikes a blow to leadership’s greatest enemy.

What prevents CEOs from telling their dumb-story? Arrogance and fear.

Bonus power: Authenticity.

Pretending blocks authenticity. You can’t be your true self when you’re pretending to be someone you aren’t.

What dumb-story do you have?

What value might there be in a dumb-story exercise with your team?

Bonus material:

The Wisdom of Deliberate Mistakes (HBR)

The Fearless Organization (Edmondson)

I’m Successful Because I’ve Been Wrong (LF)

Microsoft’s CSO on Decision-Making (LF)

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