Face Failure And Sweat The Small Stuff

If you want to do anything that has a probability of failure, which is true for just about everything, … the real key in success is not in visualizing things are going to go well. Visualize things that can probably fail and then sweat … sweat the small stuff but don’t sit around being terrified about things going wrong.

Chris Hadfield

“Sweat the small stuff ” is the key to success?

Who says that? How contrarian!

And certainly caught my full attention while only half listening to an interview playing for background noise.


But if you’re suddenly blinded by a ball of tears during a space walk, as what happened to retired astronaut Chris Hadfield, sweating the small stuff gets you back inside the International Space Station.


By taking the time in advance to sweat the small stuff and to visualize failure, in fact you become more comfortable. Because then you have a back up plan, that no matter what goes wrong you know what your actions are going to be. And so instead of feeling worried or fearing, you actually feel optimistic.

Chris Hadfield


The key takeaway here is not about getting caught up in covering every last detail.

Because stuff happens.

You can’t predict every situation or possibility that can show up.

If you try, all you end up doing is remaining frozen going nowhere except further towards crazy.

Be prepared, not perfect.


NASA - STS100-395-032


The real lesson is, it’s not what happens, it’s how you react to it. What do you do when you’re facing an unforeseen serious problem in a set of circumstances where everything is kind of critical?

Chris Hadfield

Ah, now he’s touched upon the core.

How you react, what you do, is infused with who you are being.


Keeping failure out of your awareness doesn’t guarantee you’re going to succeed.

Quite the opposite.

Suppressing fears of failure, inadequacy, disappointment, letdowns or embarrassment doesn’t lessen their power.

The hidden fears and emotions continue to fuel thoughts and actions without your knowledge or ability to address them.


By being willing to step into the negative side of setbacks, you bring the unspoken out into the open.

The emotions can remain, but with less intensity and more distance.

You become the observer of the bigger picture and more capable of choosing who to be and seeing the experiences you can draw upon to get you through.


Two examples of how who gets you through:


Almost twenty years ago an unknowingly wise adult-university-student-turned-graduate was deciding whether or not find employment or strike out as a consultant.

Four years earlier she decided she wasn’t a person who would settle for, or wait to be given, left over positions by management.

After struggling with the thought of leaving eleven years of work history behind, she faced forward and saw the thirty years ahead until early retirement.

In being open to new perspectives, the opportunity for university became a non-decision.


Now heading back into the workforce she needed to choose a path.

Seeing friends on the bad end of workplace politics wasn’t helping, but her eleven years at work did have its benefits.

Then with one realization her choice was made – the path of consulting at least had to be ventured.


Having moved from home at 17 with close to nothing but bright-eyed enthusiasm, she could think of nothing to make her less capable now fifteen years later.

Being confident, flexible, responsible and resilient in addition even more experiences to draw upon, she knew she would handle whatever came up.

And for nearly twenty years she has drawn upon that same knowing she’ll be alright and is a well-respected consultant by her clients and peers.


The summer of 2013 brought its own abyss of not knowing into my world.

Massive flooding hit Southern Alberta like had never been seen before.

Over 100,000 people had to be evacuated, including an entire town of 13,000 residents and businesses.

How do you plan for never in a million years?


The responses were a study in who each person really is.

There was little else to draw upon when you even can’t begin to fathom the extent of destruction.

The good became amazing, the complainers became angry and the non-wave makers for the most part stepped up and pulled together.


Facing the remains of four feet of sewer backup ourselves, with no prior experience in floods or backups I decided quickly who I was going to be –

confident, open, reasonable, curious, kind, understanding, resolute, respectful, resourceful, resilient and steadfast to recall a few.

Most importantly I decided this was not going to break me and I would live to tell the tale, however long the tale took to write.

That decision created a connection to an indomitable inner strength drawn upon many times over to get through the craziest of mix ups and delays.


Keeping who I was being up front and centre changed how I responded.

I didn’t need to know all the answers because I purposefully brought to the situation who I was being to figure things out.

Looking at who I would be ahead time shifted seemingly insurmountable circumstances into the manageable.


What might first appear as failure turns from defeat into an opportunity to learn, grow and be more of yourself.

Hadfield’s lesson deepens with twist from how into who –

It’s not what happens, it’s who you are being.



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Lorraine Watson - on rustic porch

chief nudging officer


Crazy for cats and potatoes, Lorraine's insatiable curiosity of Life leads her to question, explore and push beyond the box. A self-professed "left-brained creative big picture" type, she has an intuitive knack for seeing beyond and beneath first appearances while at the same time nerding out on the details. Most of all she sees and holds others in their highest until they can see it for themselves.


  1. Naomi Goodlet on January 7, 2014 at 9:42 pm

    Great post! I love this “Be prepared, not perfect.”!!

  2. Janice Masters on March 4, 2014 at 11:06 pm

    This is wonderful. Whistling in the dark doesn’t make our fears go away, it just ignores them. Facing them as possibilities can have the paradoxical effect of diluting them. Some of the things I’ve experienced in my life have fallien into the ‘never in a million years’ category and pulled an iron strength out of me that was stunning!! Thanks for this article!! ~Jan

    • Lorraine on March 5, 2014 at 2:16 pm

      Jan, a “paradoxical effect” is a great way to describe the process of facing our fears and undesirable situations. We certainly surprise ourselves, sometimes looking back to say “who is that person?!” Funny how we doubt what we are capable of and then watch it come forward. Not like we can go to the store and pick up a package of strength or a barrel of courage.

  3. mary Joyce on March 5, 2014 at 1:22 pm

    Superb post Lorraine, I actually use a similar visualizing technique to one Chris Hadfield suggests, I don’t use the same terminology as him – however I use it to look deeper into any challenges to arrive at a solution quicker. Becoming the observer of the bigger picture and choosing who to be and seeing the experiences you can draw upon to get you through is how I roll 🙂

    • Lorraine on March 5, 2014 at 2:24 pm

      We’re a wealth of resources waiting to be tapped. Being able to pull pieces together is an art in itself that gets easier with practice and awareness. Moving into the challenge with the knowing there is a solution to be found really does shift everything.

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