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:
Don’t trust great pretenders – the people who never make mistakes.
You can trust someone who tells you how dumb they’ve been.
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.
Mistake-making connects us. We know we’re all alike in some ways.
I feel like I might belong if the people on the team have done dumb things.
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?
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)
Ah ha moment, Ironically we used a suitcase in the basement lined with foam for our targets, the insane thought was to place an old piano light in the suitcase and Bingo, how many light bulbs did we end up replacing. Looking back the more insane thing I was involved in was following a friend had a 35 lb. wooden long bow and wooden arrows shooting the arrows straight up, when they came back down try you have them fall within the bow between the string, you guessed it, luckily hit the forearm and the blunt tips did not penetrate, thinking I was like 9, truly not a smart day in the backyard. The value from all this is that people learn by their mistakes unless they truly take a life, those mistakes one may never recover from. You hear them on the news loaded gun in a house discharges accidently. They even tell you never point a loaded gun. Treat every weapon as its loaded. Yet it seems to happen daily. Happy Friday Dan.
Thanks Tim. Love the arrow story!! “I shot an arrow in the air. It fell to earth on my FOREARM.” .. 🙂 Thanks for the chuckle this morning. PS…I never thought about shooting a BB gun IN THE HOUSE!!
Dan we had a long cinder block walled Basement wasn’t finished at the time, “Pops’ creativity in December for a Christmas present..
My favorite interview question is “Tell me about a recent mistake you made at work.” Their attitude to the answer is one of the most important factors in determining if they are honest with themselves and others.
Brilliant. Thanks Sarah.
First and second rules of sledgehammering; 1. Don’t hit yourself, 2. Hit the thing you want to demolish. I can personally attest to the veracity of these rules.
Thanks Ian. Don’t hit any part of your body with a hammer. 🙂 … love to hear more. Perhaps this post should be called, Tails from the Loony Bin?
Dan, as “smart” as all leaders appear to be, it’s amazing how many dumb things we do! In addition to being open, honest, and vulnerable about our own missteps as leaders, it’s also important to create a safe, nonjudgmental environment for others to learn and move on from dumb things. In teaching graduate students, I dispelled the notion that there’s no such thing as a dumb question. Sometimes we realize we’ve asked a dumb question as soon as the words leave our mouths. Sometimes, we don’t realize how dumb our question was for weeks! Those kinds of “dumb’ questions naturally occur as students absorb and relate new ideas and concepts. Asking the “dumb” question in the midst of confusion leads to clarity. Avoiding the question almost always results in misunderstanding fundamental points. Whether at school, at work, or home, or at play, we should seek to learn and grow from mistakes and avoid the perception that we or others need to be perfect! All the best.
Thanks Paul. So true…psychological safety is an essential component of remarkable success for teams and organizations. We can succeed as pretenders, but we won’t enjoy it as much.
I could start the next year of meetings with a story about dumb things I have done. And the moral of them all are the same: I have survived 100% of the dumb things I have done so far in my life. So whatever dumb thing you have just done, you are going to survive it, too.
Thanks Jennifer. It’s amazing. But we have made it this far!
What a great post!
I’m sure everyone has at least one “dumb thing” story… I know I have more than my share!
I’ve worked with so many leaders who feel they have to keep up this persona of perfection… the problems are simple… that standard just isn’t attainable, and we all know it’s a lie anyway! PEOPLE! Just lighten up a little!
HEY! You want stupid? I shot my mattress!
I have shared that story a ton of times, and the morals of the story are
“Everyone does stupid stuff”
“It’s OK to laugh at yourself”
“Wash your hands after you eat honey BBQ chicken wings!”
Have a great day!
When you got to slow release of the hammer I thought, GREASY FINGERS!! Too funny and too scary!! Glad you’re OK…
I feel for those who have never learned to laugh at themselves. Who always have to come up shiny. They are draining to any team, because they default by deflecting blame in an attempt to protect ego and preserve status. What a gift we might give by modelling ‘The Power of Dumb’!
Thanks Tooarbie. I hadn’t thought about all the energy wasted by posturing and pretending. As I think of it, it’s exhausting. And it’s degrading to the people around us. We treat others as objects when we have to always “come up shiny.”
First thought. We were 1960s kids, with those short frame bikes with “banana seats” and “sissy bars.” Kings of Cool. We had a soccer ball. We had heard of polo. A bike is like a horse, right? So we thought a bicycle polo soccer game would be fun. And it was, no lie. Until I hit the ball with my front wheel, launched over the bars, and landed in the parking lot of the First Baptist Church. Concrete and oyster shells. Got my screaming bloody self home, where my mom spent the next hour (or week, I’m not sure) with tweezers, alcohol, and a rag, removing slivers of oyster shell from my forearm, calmly but firmly explaining the dangers of infection, as only a half-German RN mom can do. Maybe dumb kid stories don’t count, but this was the first thing to come to mind. Most of my adult dumb seems to have been more time-release dumb, so the stories aren’t as good. Have a laugh! I do…now.
A career in the constantly changing world of micro/nano technology kept me the dumbest guy in the room, frequently the only non-PhD.
The power it gave me was comfort of asking questions and “not knowing.” I positioned as a learner… its become a comfortable life pattern 🙂
This is the dumbest thing I ever did at work, when I was 21 years old:
My boss asked me to get him a cup of coffee. I went into the office kitchen to get it, but there was no coffee prepared. I filled the coffee pot and pressed the machine on to make the coffee. My boss called out to me, and I went back to my desk. It was fairly common in this office for people to call out to each other all of the time, as it was a stock brokerage office and we had to memorize and manage the trades we were working on. I was distracted when I heard my name called out, and forgot to put the coffee pot back on the burner, leaving it on the counter!
A few moments after the trade we were working on was complete, my boss said, “Where’s my coffee?” I went back to the kitchen, and there were two of my much older co-workers, kneeling on the floor, with a massive pile of paper towels, wiping up coffee from the counter, cabinets, and floor. I said, “Oh no,” and they said, “You clean it!” Imagine the sight of two older women trying to help each other up off of the floor!
I continued cleaning up the mess and my boss came into the kitchen for his coffee. “What happened?” he asked. “Never mind,” I told him. I remade the coffee, with the coffee pot in place, this time!
P.S. Thanks for the great question – I’m going to use my answer here as a blog post for today!