Dark, ominous storm clouds engulfed the lake last night, billowing high into the sky, blocking an intensely red sunset we could barely see on the horizon. Light shows go on each night, starting with mild color and developing into intense reds, pinks, yellows, with hints of blue peeking through.

Distant thunder echoes across the lake, with mild flashes of light within the clouds — storms here tend to reach the mountain and pass to its sides, keeping us storm-free. Sitting here, into the darkness, we watch the clouds break and distant stars peeking through as the air chills.

Each sunset here is a gift, as is each morning on the dock, watching the fog lift and the sun break through. Sadly, this is my last Sunday morning on this dock as our summer here draws to an end. It seems we just arrived, and there is so much I didn’t check off on my summer bucket list.

Summer Can’t Last Forever

Sundown has a powerful meaning to me today because it’s the close of a wonderful celebration of summer, with much of the family gathered together. I can think of nothing better than giving the kids time at a lake filled with adventures, hikes, canoe rides, mountain climbs, and independence on boats with their summer friends. This time here is also a gift for the rest of the family who gathers here — this summer there were more than usual, and, though not everyone was present, it was a chance to reconnect, just sit and chat, cook and eat together, and just be. Now we depart for our separate lives and wonder what next summer will bring. Will there be a place to gather? Will there be family members added or lost? We always wish for just one more summer together, and dream that we can make this tradition last for generations to come.

Never a Summer Missed

Last week at a lake cocktail party I was speaking with a lake friend, celebrating her 80th summer here, never skipping a year. Her memories of childhood, spending her summers with her friends and watching them grow, having kids, grandkids, and now great-grandkids, and even watching some of her friends and relatives inevitably pass, has been a gift like no other. It’s rare anywhere in the world that someone could claim such a gift.

Sunsets and seasons are the cycles of the earth and the cycles of life. Change, too, is a cycle of life — out with the old, in with the new. Change causes personal growth and creates a new cycle, and even failure brings growth.

Edison Embraced Failure

I’ve been reading a lot about growth lately and the importance of failure. Failure led Edison to the invention of the light bulb, after 1,000 attempts. He did not stop when things got hard, he failed forward. He took his failure as feedback to learn what works and what doesn’t work.

What would happen if you and I looked at failures as feedback?

People tend to give up too easily when they receive negative feedback, since they perceive it as failure. Yet if they would look at all feedback as positive, their entire outlook would change, in all areas of their lives, their careers, and their relationships.

How many marriages have ended because relationship problems were looked at as failures rather than feedback?

Turn Failure into Feedback

Too often we communicate with someone and fail to get the response we want, so we get angry and huff off. But what if you were to alter your communication so you turn failure into feedback? It will make you listen more, learn more, and adapt your communication until you are no longer failing.

Saving Marriages and Businesses

How many relationships or marriages end because people fail to get what they want immediately? How many businesses fail because their investors take failure as a reason to stop or give up?

What if in our marriages or our work lives or our businesses, we were more like Edison, who found a thousand ways not to build a light bulb but kept persisting until he brought light to the world? Think how much light you would bring to your own world by looking at failure as feedback.

Defuse Emotion

When you and I look at failure as feedback, we remove the emotion from a situation. Rather than blowing up because we did not get our way, what if we detach from our emotions so we can learn what’s not working? Then we can make adjustments until it does work, and we are less likely to get stuck.

Being Right May Not Be Right

Everything you and I do in our lives is designed to give us meaning. We want to be heard, we want to be significant, and sadly, we want to be right. Yet accepting feedback keeps us from having to be right all the time and helps us seek solutions that work.

Looking Inward

My tendency is to blame others when something does not go my way. They simply don’t see what I see. Yet if I’d accept more blame, look at others’ failure to embrace what I’m trying to communicate as a failure on my part, my guess is that I’d tend to look inward for a solution, based on that feedback, and see it as a chance to try something new next time.

Next time you have an argument, stop yourself and tell yourself that you just got feedback. Same when you’re experiencing political discourse or a business disagreement.

Turn failure into feedback, and you may find yourself happier, less frustrated, and able to see a different side of things.

Eric Rhoads