What do you do in the face of an unmitigated disaster? Beat yourself up or consider it a learning experience?
Last weekend, in the midst of a flurry of last-minute activity in preparing to head out to Burning Man, I unwisely added another project to my to-do list. It was important but not urgent, and somehow, I upgraded it to urgent. (Tangent: there must be a psychological syndrome for this--adding a non-essential task just before a major deadline. Does anyone know what it is?)
In my case, the case was making catfood. Yes, making. Catfood. In my vacation preparations, I was making arrangements for the house sitter and pet sitter, cleaning the litter box, etc. And I was reminded again that my vet is concerned that my cat has been losing weight. I supply him with a special dry food made for older cats, but he is still awfully skinny. So I had called my mother the day before to see if she could give me the recipe for the homemade liver cat food she'd made for my brother's cat after it had been in a car accident and had its jaw wired shut.
What I didn't do was make sure the bottom of the blender was intact. When I lifted the glass carafe off the base, the mixture splattered everywhere--including onto the three-month-old MacBook Pro I'd been using to make a Skype call.
I'd love to say that I handled the incident with grace and aplomb, but I didn't. I freaked out, desperately tried to clean the laptop and took an hour to clean the kitchen before racing to the Apple store to see if the laptop could be salvaged.
The kicker: I figured that at least I could get the cat to lick up some of the homemade food, right? Wrong. The little bugger wouldn't touch it. He wouldn't even eat one bite of the food that had just ruined my $1,500 laptop!
Total unmitigated disaster.
The moral of the story: throw it against the wall and see if it sticks
In marketing, we love metrics. We love analysis. We love our pie charts and graphs that show growth over time, more followers and engagement.
But what we won't admit is that, like doctors, we're making an educated guess. We're throwing stuff against the wall to see what sticks. And that means that sometime, the stuff doesn't stick. It just makes a big, sticky, pointless mess.
The Great Catfood Experiment of 2011 could have had great results. It could have saved trips to the vet, reduced concern for my aging kitty, made the pet sitter's job a bit easier and made me look like the greatest kitty mommy of all time. But it didn't. It made a big, sticky, pointless mess.
And sometimes, the best we can do is learn the lesson, refuse to beat ourselves up about it, clean up the mess and walk away a bit wiser with a kick-ass anecdote to inform the next educated guess.