David Housman

Stumble, Reflect, Change: Iterate your way to Success


Many years ago at Beverly Hills High School, I threw discus and put shot under the direction of Kate “The Great” Schmidt, a two time Olympic medal winner, and former world record holder in javelin.

In a track meet, you get three attempts to throw as far as you can while staying inside of a throwing circle. If you lose control and fall out of the throwing ring, that’s called a “foul” and the throw doesn’t count. Kate used to tell us:

“If you don’t foul at least once, then you’re not pushing hard enough”.

Sometimes pushing myself means taking steps into new territory. Sometimes that means I stumble.  But if you don’t foul at least once, you are staying so deep in your comfort zone that your other attempts cannot have been your best.

There is no algorithm for success so sure as this:

  1. Action
  2. Reflection
  3. Change.

With so little on the line and so much to gain, there is no better practice arena than CMUSV. Regardless of whether things went smoothly or not, reflection can help find a way to do it better. At the end of every meeting at CMUSV, we ask ourselves and our team how we did, and what we can do better next time.

As I amble from peak to peak, and valley to valley, I trumpet that it was Coach Schmidt taught taught me how to push myself to the point of failure. Carnegie Mellon Silicon Valley taught me to get back up and learn from it. And I suppose it’s my hard-headed obstinacy that that makes me try again.

These days I’m can’t tell if I’m in my comfort zone or not: I left it behind a long way back. I look forward to stumbling because I know that when I inevitably find my feet, I will reflect and become stronger and wiser for the experience.

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