What is failure? How do we define it? If we don’t fail, can we count it as success?
The format of the event was designed to be interactive instead of just a talkfest. The night started when we were all tasked with meeting people around us without giving our name and without talking about what we do. A little tougher than it sounds!
After we mingled, we broke into 3 groups. The aim of these groups was to come up with 2 questions for each of our guest speakers. Not only did we get to interact with the speakers themselves, but we also got to enjoy interesting conversation and listen to differing opinions from participants in the room.
Our first speaker was Eugene Quinn, an expat from London who didn’t move to Vienna by choice. Eugene spoke about what it was like to move to Austria and leave your home country. Coming to a city that was more conservative and clinging to tradition could have been considered a challenge destined to fail. Instead, Eugene faced it head on and deliberately took on tasks that took him (and others) out of their comfort zones.
Learning German, for example, is something that Eugene is proud of. Make no mistake, his German isn’t perfect – he likes to refer to it as ‘Freestyle Deutsch’ – but he doesn’t see this as a failure. Instead, he celebrates his mistakes because he believes it is about the message he is communicating, rather than the grammar.
Eugene also talked about turning ‘failures’ into opportunities. His company spaceandplace.at runs ‘Vienna Ugly’ a walking tour showcasing some of the worst of Vienna’s buildings. The city of Vienna fined him for this, believing it was against what Vienna stood for. Then Eugene took a risk and spoke publicy about his fine, explaining how Vienna wasn’t ready to move forward with innovative new ideas. The media grabbed the story and his tours became even more popular. He also didn’t receive any more fines.
Our second speaker was Neha Chatwani from The Workplace Atelier. An organizational psychologist Neha used examples from her career to demonstrate how she dealt with fear. It started when she was rejected from her first job interview because they believed she didn’t ‘look’ like she could do it. Rather than letting this fear of rejection shape her life, she approached it head-on and used it to help her keep focus.
When Neha was 10 years old, she began observing adults and watching how they navigated the world. They woke up in the morning, went to work, earned money, went grocery shopping and generally took good care of themselves. The problem was that 10 year old Neha could not imagine how she would become this ‘responsible adult’ she was observing. It seemed impossible. Luckily her mother gave her some valuable advice that she has come back to many times throughout her life: wait and see. Over time, Neha has learnt to trust herself and her judgements.
Neha has developed her own unique way of addressing challenges and will regularly sit down on the couch to have conversations with herself – out loud. For her, this puts things into perspective and she is able to gain focus. She has no problem laughing at her mistakes, and when something doesn’t turn out exactly as planned, she simply adjusts her expectations.
The takeaway of the workshop for this blogger was when Neha said, “Define your own definition of success. Don’t let anyone else determine it for you. They have no idea what makes you tick or makes you happy. Why should they get a say in your happiness?”