Book group is coming up this Wednesday. We will read chapter two of Making Home by Sharon Astyk out loud. I jumped ahead and read the chapter already. While the first chapter was about making a home, the second chapter is about failure and yup, it’s scary and depressing but also motivating.

We have all been in a power outage, I’m sure, and some of us have been in extended power outages and still others have been in natural disasters. We know there is failure in the system but most of us don’t plan or prepare for it. Why?

When Bookman and I still lived in Northridge, California we had an earthquake kit. We had bottled water, food, a first aid kit, blankets, cat food for our cat, even a wrench that we could use to turn off the gas to the building if it ruptured. We kept flashlights next to the bed and shoes with a hard sole as well. We were prepared for up to three days without help, what the “experts” recommended. And when the Northridge earthquake hit in 1994 we did just fine.

When we moved to Minnesota and drove a lot more than we do now, we had a winter emergency kit in the car in case we got stuck in the snow while in the middle of nowhere and help was not immediately forthcoming.

At the moment, we have no emergency kit of any kind. We’ve slipped, feel too secure. We have no backup plan for heating our house in winter. No extra water. We have an emergency weather radio with a hand crank and light but that’s pretty much it. Since we’ve lived here there have been two tornados in the state that wiped out an entire small town. There has only been one tornado in Minneapolis that touched down briefly and tore the roofs off several houses. There have been two severe thunderstorms with straight line winds that blew down powerlines and tore up trees, sending them into houses and cars and causing generalized destruction. But we have come through it without losing power or a tree or even a shingle from the roof. And we have grown complacent, which is dangerous.

So when Astyk asks:

What if we treated failure as though it were a normal outcome in our lives?

It got me thinking. Because, it isn’t just the big failures we need to know how to cope with, it’s the small, every day ones too — the new job we didn’t get, the deadline we missed, the bad test score, the bike race we lost, the hole in our favorite socks. There is a lot of talk these days about “failing better” when it comes to business, but what would it mean to stop pretending that we don’t fail? That systems don’t fail? That societies don’t fail? That failure happens somewhere else but not here? And once we start thinking of failure as normal, how do we prepare for it?

Too bad it is just the reading of this chapter on Wednesday. I have a feeling the discussion is going to be really good, but I have to wait two weeks for it!

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