Answering a question without knowing quite a bit about the context is usually where misunderstandings start. The world is just too big and complicated a place for us to be able to see it as it is. We’d be overwhelmed. We see what we have been trained to see, hear, smell, sense, etc. Likewise, we generally think about things as hard as we think we need to. If we misinterpret the context, the communication will mean one thing to one party and something else to the other. Often, neither party realizes it until it is too late.

Failure analysis is a great way to cultivate clarity. Since last year, when I came up with my “Compare: Contrast: Connect: Create: Choose with Confidence” seven-word summary of how to cultivate clarity, things seem to be much more clear than they used to be. That doesn’t mean I have no problems in life! But life does feel richer to me. It’s easier for me to see when I am going to have no realistic chance of having a true meeting of the minds with someone. And it is easier to have more ways to try to attain that meeting of the minds. If there’s something beyond words that I can do, I’m more likely to get an idea of how to do it too. When I have run out of ideas, I’m much more at peace that I did what I could.

Another quote attributed to Anais Nin on is “Life is truly known only to those who suffer, lose, endure adversity and stumble from defeat to defeat.” Maybe that is a little too harsh for most of us. Most of us would prefer to keep our chances for analyzing our failures and defeats – whether technical or personal or both – to an infrequent activity.

If you are an intelligent person, (why else would you be reading this?), consider making a gift to yourself and others to cultivate clarity. At this holiday season, in an uncertain world, cultivating clarity helps us understand how to celebrate the natural uncertainty that is part of all life.

It’s becoming more automatic for me to compare my life with that of the majority of humans walking the earth. We’re all subject to the pains and sufferings of the human condition. It’s becoming more automatic for me to contrast my life with that of the majority of humans walking the earth. Without any doubt, I have it pretty good, as do most who have grown up in our society. Connecting this contrast of “I’m a miserable human caught in the human condition” with the thought “I have it pretty good” allows me to create a higher reconciled view of what life is at its best. Now I can choose my actions to a greater degree than if I go through life on automatic. And I can have confidence that if I am still failing at my personal relationships, at least I’m learning useful things about the human condition as I do.

Trust me when I say that if you can do failure analysis on human relationships, a broken shaft or a steel part that came out of the heat-treat furnace with a crack is going to be a relative cake walk.