When is it OK to let people fail?

Well, it has been a really really really long time since I posted here, so, life, you know? Every day, my calendar tells me to post to my blog, but for over a year, not so much.

But! I’m trying to get back into the swing of things. So this here is actually a slightly edited article I wrote for LinkedIn, which I’ve been working to become more active on, but a few trusted SCA friends suggested that it had relevance here as well, so here it is!

As a manager of people, and a project manager, and someone who has been in leadership positions in the SCA, I try to be a good leader in general.  But I frequently feel that I am put in a position where I have to decide to either step in to prevent or fix a problem, or allow that problem to occur, and then deal with the fallout of that problem. And I think that this is something that happens to a lot of people.

Often, the decision I made was affected by how much work it would be for – me – to fix it.

Here’s the thing though: as a parent, we’re often – told – to let children try something and fail at it. Children succeed more, and become more resilient when they’re told that they worked hard at something, even if they had to try it a few times, rather than being told that they’re smart. And we see memes and slogans extolling the worth of failure: “the Expert has failed more times than the Beginner has tried”, for example.

So why do we step in to rescue adults from mistakes? I think there are two reasons.

The first is purely self-preservation. When you manage someone, you’re accountable for the work they’ve done, so when they fail, you’ve failed too. And that’s the easy answer, right? Your failure is my failure.

But the second answer isn’t so easy. The second answer is that it’s HARD to see someone fail, even if the collateral damage doesn’t include you. Because, weirdly, in this context, adults are less resilient – or at least perceived to be less resilient – than children. I don’t know why that is. All I know is that I’m driven to try to fix things before they get out of control.

But are we doing our coworkers or co-volunteers a disservice by preventing their mistakes from having consequences? Does it hurt them more than it helps for someone to swoop in and make things work, sometimes without them even realizing?

I’m starting to think maybe it does. Because when you fail to let someone learn from their mistakes things happen.

  • First, they may get praise for doing such a good job with their task, even though you’re the one who actually made it happen. That reinforces the confidence they have in themselves — which will surely lead them down the road to even more failure, because maybe you won’t be there next time.
  • Secondly, you, and anyone who helped you prevent or fix the mistake will likely become frustrated as time goes by, because preventing one mistake becomes preventing many mistakes. That’s not great for a team dynamic, and will turn into resentment.
  • Thirdly — but probably most importantly, the person you’re saving doesn’t -learn- anything from what’s happened. If they don’t learn, they don’t grow, and if they don’t grow, there’s no improvement. Everyone makes mistakes. If we can’t see the mistakes we make, we stagnate.
  • And, as was stated by a friend of mine, if you’re always there to step in and fix something, people might think that you’re becoming presumptuous.  “Only I can fix it,” they think you say.  That kind of behavior certainly doesn’t lend itself to fostering leadership in others.

So think about the moments when you stepped in to fix a problem, and consider if letting that problem actually happen might have made things better, and put them in the comments!  I know that there have been moments when someone stepped in for me, and it probably would have been better had they not come to the rescue.

Showcase: The Court Barony of Sophie the Orange

Sophie the Orange.  I mean, what can I say about Sophie the Orange?   She’s a force of nature.  She’s stands up for justice.  She’s mindful and introspective.  She’s funny.  She’s awesome.  And it was a loss for the MidRealm when she left to live in Atlantia.

So I was overjoyed to discover that William and Isolde wanted to give her something for that awesomeness, both at the SCA 50 Year Event, where she took a really difficult job and made it look easy, and in her tireless support of Commedia across the Known World.

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Showcase: The Evergreen of Brenden o Corraidha

Now that there were heirs, things really began kicking into high gear.  And nowhere was that more apparent than at Northern Oaken War Maneuvers, or as we liked to call it, “Court: The Event!”  SEVENTY AWARDS were given at NOWM, in one of FOUR COURTS held during the day:

Morning, Field, Evening, and Silent.

That’s over 17 awards per court.  There are whole events that don’t have that many awards!  In fact, NOWM was the event with the most awards.  Pennsic had between 45-55, and Baroness Wars had around 60 total.
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Showcase: Writing Scroll Texts and Other Things – The Scroll Text for Ulrich

Earlier this week, I reviewed the boast for Ulrich’s elevation to Chivalry.  Today, we’ll talk about his scroll text.

I structured it to parallel the Oath of Knighthood, which calls upon Knights to be Prow, to be Reverent and Generous, Shield of the Weak, Obedient to his Liege Lord, Foremost in battle, Courteous at all times, and Champion of the Right and the good.  These are fundamental concepts of Knighthood all across the SCA — but since Ulrich is a Viking half-dane, it needed to fit within a viking epic style.   Because Ulrich was one of Ragvnaldr’s King’s Champion during the last reign, I also worked to tie some of the imagery in with the Lineage of Ragnvaldr I wrote several years ago.

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Showcase: Writing Scroll Texts and Other Things – The Boast for Ulrich

I first met Ulrich the Half-dane when he was on Ragnvaldr’s King’s Champion’s team, during Ragnvaldr & Arabella’s third reign.  Ragnvaldr called him his Space Marine.  He has since become a good friend, and I have written other scrolls and ceremonies for him, including when he recently became the second Baron of Shadowed Stars.

Ulrich was the fourth person put on vigil for William and Isolde’s reign, and the first to be put on vigil for Chivalry.  We had almost a month to prepare, and Ulrich had some very specific desires in his ceremony.  The first was a Viking-style boast, based off his persona story.

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Showcase: Writing Scroll Texts and Other Things – Kingdom A&S and Crown Tournament Boasts

Crown Tournament is always a special time in a reign.  Between Coronation and Crown, the only royalty in the Kingdom are the King and Queen.  The kingdom belongs to Them and Them alone.

The Kingdom A&S Competition and Crown Tournament of William and Isolde was a fun one, with many standout moments for me both personally, and from the perspective of being on Staff.   I really slipped into a role of Court Management at this event, in addition to having active roles in both the running of the A&S Competition and being the co-Autocrat of the event, specifically for the Sunday Crown Tournament.

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All my dreams.

Silverwing’s Law 101: “You’re an oldtimer when the things you used to strive for are taken for granted.”


In 1990, John and Maire (Meg Frazier) moved to the MidRealm from Ansteorra and Maire decided she wanted to be able to fence. They join forces with Baron AElfred (Allen Reed) and the MidRealm Rapier Legion was born. In 1991, Queen Tangwystl is the first of three queens who wore a White Scarf in support of the goal: Rapier Combat in the Middle Kingdom.

In May of 1993, the first MidRealm fencers were inducted into the Order of the Cavendish Knot.

In 1994, the first MidRealm Rapier rules are signed into Kingdom law, and later that year, at Pennsic 23, we had the first MidRealm Rapier Champions Team (pictured below).

In April of 1999, the Company of the Bronze Ring was created. It was “promoted” from AoA level to Grant of Arms level about a year later.

In May of 2015, the Rapier Peerage was created.

This past weekend, 28 years after the Rapier Rats answered the Call of Maire, I went to the Tournament of Defence, at the Three Saints event in Rivenstar. There were 89 fencers on the field, and that night, two good gentles were recognized as peers of the realm, surrounded by well over a dozen of their compatriots.

All of my dreams have come true.

Showcase: Writing Scroll Texts and Other Things – Saraswati mân Ikkam’s Evergreen

THL Saraswati is a wonderful scribe doing absolutely amazing work.  When I found out that she was going to be inducted into the Order of the Evergreen, first I said “Wait, she doesn’t have an Evergreen?”, and then I said “oooh, I’ma write this for her!”

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