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Risking Everything to Build a Thing of Beauty

The best way to avoid pain and disaster


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This is a picture of my wife’s kiln just after cracking the top.

When the temperature drops from about 1,800 degrees to 150 degrees, she nervously opens the top to see what occurred. Each piece is fired at least twice, once to harden the clay (called bisque firing) and again after glazing.

Ordinarily, she finds a kiln full of what she put in there. That is what you’d expect, wouldn’t you? Unfortunately, clay sometimes explodes. If it’s too moist, the water content turns to steam and exits its host as quickly as possible, often taking out everything else around it like a grenade. Not cool. … Some clay artists work extremely fast, but I estimate that my wife has about 200 hours of work in each firing. You can imagine her anxiety!

The best way to avoid this is to never create the piece in the first place. Completely safe. Draw a picture instead; it will never explode.

Crazy thought, right? Yet we frequently prevent ourselves from doing things because they might “blow up.” The product doesn’t get designed, the new position doesn’t get hired, the new location doesn’t get opened, the tough conversation — while necessary — doesn’t take place.

Self-editing is dangerous, but it’s hard to see the “results.” Business might be good enough, but it could be great! I’ve had some great years and some good enough years because I wasn’t bold enough; I didn’t want to “fail,” but of course, I did. It just wasn’t visible. I could’ve helped more clients who could’ve hired more employees who would’ve had happier families. But I didn’t.

My failures are nothing more than an ego bruise, and I bet most of yours are too. Let’s risk blowing up something next week!

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Todd Ordal

Todd Ordal is president of Applied Strategy®. Todd helps CEOs achieve better financial results, become more effective leaders and sleep easier at night. He is a former CEO and has led teams as large as 7,000. Todd is the author of Never Kick a Cow Chip On A Hot Day: Real Lessons for Real CEOs and Those Who Want To Be (Morgan James Publishing, 2016). Connect with Todd on LinkedIn, Twitter, call 303-527-0417 or email todd@toddordal.com.

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