Sitting with Hard Memories & Standing Alone…

This morning Facebook did me the “kindness” of reminding me what I was doing last year on this day. My first thought was “I’d be happy to forget that particular memory.” But rather than put the thought away until Zuckerberg’s reminder next year, I decided to sit with it for a few minutes. I realized that it was much easier to do from where I find myself in life today and that I could spend time with the memory for the first time as an objective observer.

On this day last year, I stood in front of a room filled with neurologists and ER nurses to talk about the software my teams and I were building them for a launch in summer of 2017. I knew it was a tough crowd that had been disappointed before, so I was prepared for hard questions and skepticism.

I was not prepared to have my ass handed to me. I was not prepared for a 20 minute session to become an hour…then 90 minutes…then 2 hours…then 2 1/2 hours. I was not prepared to be dismissed for being a technologist. Even now I can taste the metal in my mouth and feel my heart rate rise and fall with each new question as I think over that day.

But the amazing thing is that from where I sit today, I can honestly tell you that I’m so glad that day in Portland happened last year. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

  • That day I was reminded of the critical importance of having access to your real users when building software so that you don’t get too far off what they need.
  • That day I added a few key elements to my list of the kind of leaders I wanted to work with and for when I moved on to something new.
  • Most importantly, that day I saw myself standing alone and was proud. I was proud to sincerely listen to every single comment, most of which had nothing to do with my or my team’s work. I was proud to give my best, unfiltered answer to each and every doctor, nurse, and administrator who had a question. I was proud to say the words, “I am so sorry that we didn’t hear you sooner. I will go back to the team and we will get this right.” And I was proud to show emotion, compassion, and regret for the mistakes that had been made.

Don’t dismiss or dismantle the hard memories because they are the ones that often teach us the most. From where I sit today…in Stockholm, working for a company and leaders that I love…this memory is a reminder and a treasure. One I will never forget…and one I will never have to live again.

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