Building Walls vs. Building Bridges: How to Trump Fault, Failure, and Fear


Face it, there isn’t one among us who is perfect. We all are full of faults, failures, and fear that keep us from being our best. Think of each of these imperfections as bricks that build a wall between who we are and who we want to become. Have you built a seemingly insurmountable wall that is keeping you from reaching your potential? If this is the case, don’t fret; there are steps we can take to begin tearing it down. Start by accepting these imperfect bricks as part of who we are. Once we grasp the concept of imperfection and learn how to overcome and mitigate it in ourselves (and others) we can begin to take those same bricks and use them to build bridges.

First off, find the fault in yourself. This is by no means an easy endeavor as it really takes quite a bit of introspection and humility, something many leaders struggle with. So how do we do this? I’ve found the best way to accomplish this is to listen to others, look inward, and then learn to accept what you find.

Listen to Others

It is often very difficult to find our own faults and when we do they may just be the tip of the iceberg. An unbiased outsider who works with us day-in and day-out certainly has an unique perception of who we are and is intimately aware of our strengths and weaknesses. Take advantage of this insight! Whether it’s a friend, coworker or significant other, those who are around you know you best, sometimes better than we know ourselves. Listening to the feedback they have can help you identify where you need to focus your efforts. Allow them to wake you up to what you are in others eyes.

Look Inward

Think back to the time you last encountered conflict, fell short of a goal, or allowed yourself to show emotion you wish you hadn’t. What was it that went wrong? Be objective and pick the encounter apart. We naturally tend to push the blame on someone else, but was it that other person/situation or was it you? What if you didn’t react the way you did and instead accepted the fact that maybe, just maybe the other person was right or thought they were right yet had the noblest of intentions? Would that have changed the way you viewed or handled the situation? Speaking from experience I can say that I have done both and have come out the wiser when I take the latter route. Time and experiences forge in us certain preconceived notions that become part of our character and intuitiveness. Though these qualities are often very beneficial to us, there are times when they work against us. Learn to trust your gut, but to also check it!

Learn To Accept What You Find

Now that we’ve allowed others and ourselves to make aware our faults, accept them. We are imperfect people and when we can grasp that concept we are able to move forward in a way that we may not have before. We make mistakes and will continue to do so through our life. There is no overcoming or changing this, only us being able to recognize these acts in ourselves and learning to grow from them.

Think of the greatest sportsman and coaches, the one thing that 99% have in common, aside from their innate talents, is the fact that they are able to identify weaknesses and faults and work towards perfecting them. The operative word is work. Perfection doesn’t come easy at all, if ever, but as they continue in the process they get better and better until they are at the top of their game. Michael Jordan said it best: “Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.”

Building Bridges

After discovering and coming to terms with our own faults we must find and accept the fault of others. I’m not saying to obsess over them or point them out initially, just identify them and learn to accept them. They are part of who that other person is, an important part. These imperfections might be a big deal or a small deal, nevertheless, they can be used as a bridge to connect with people.

I have worked with some frustrating people in my career. People who just seem to know where and when to grate on that last nerve (if you are reading this, you could be one of them). One thing that has helped me greatly is taking a step back when I get to that point to assess the situation. Before losing to emotion, I now think about why that person is doing what they are doing. Is it because they are trying to upset me? Most times not, but even if their intention is to rattle me, then doing so gives them a victory.

On the other hand, maybe they do not realize that they are affecting me the way they are. Perhaps their imperfection has kicked into gear and they don’t realize it. In either case, the best thing I have found to do is to lay it all out on the table. Ask this other person why they are doing what they are doing and let them know how it is impacting you. Open up with them about a weakness you have and try to relate by building a bridge to help them identify their weakness/imperfection. Let them know that you accept them the way they are and are committed to helping them reach their own highest potential. This feeling of investment builds a huge amount of trust and loyalty. People feel less threatened when they feel as though they have a leader who understands and accepts them.

The true test of commitment in any relationship is whether or not we are willing to look past the imperfections that make us all what we are. If both parties are able do so, they will have a much greater chance of success in their endeavor, if not then failure will follow sooner or later. Remember also that you will always come out on top when you choose to lift others up rather than tearing them down.