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.

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 – Silver Oak and Moneyer Declaration for Rüdiger of Unicorn

Um, yeah.  Two months since my last posting.  Forgive me, Dragon, for I have sinned…

Moving on.

I don’t actually know Rüdiger of Unicorn.  I believe I’ve met him once or twice, but I didn’t know him at William and Isolde’s coronation, certainly.  I was asked by them ahead of time to write him two things: A Silver Oak text, and a declaration that he was Their official Moneyer.

Continue reading “Showcase: Writing Scroll Texts and Other Things – Silver Oak and Moneyer Declaration for Rüdiger of Unicorn”

Perfect Music: Tron Legacy (One in a Series)

There’s no such thing as THE perfect piece of music.  Perfection is contained within inspiration, composition, recording, performance, and audience.

But there are lots of individually perfect pieces of music.  I’ve got a blog, so I’ma talk about some of them.

Now, I’m an original nerd.  I learned to program on a PDP-7, played video games in the arcade and on my Atari 2600, and I cut my SF teeth on Asimov, Clark and Le Guin.  When I was a kid, the original Tron movie came out, and I loved it, so when Disney announced the sequel I was completely on board.

I had heard of Daft Punk, but never paid much attention to what had been described to me as a french band that plays keyboards.

I had no idea.

This is one of the loveliest, most perfect, most uplifting pieces of music I’ve ever heard.  The low brass entrance, the harmonies that build, ever increasing, until the higher brass and woodwinds come in, then the strings lifting over everything else.  It settles, and then at 2:13, the fanfare of the fifth!

Another thirty or so seconds of beauty before the first real electronic instruments come in, so subtle, but supporting everything, and at three minutes, the rush peaks, coming to rest back in the strings, returning to the simple strong themes we started with.  Slowly, we come to rest, in the octave, and it ends there.

There are true reasons for why certain intervals, like fifths and sevenths, evoke physiological responses in some people.  I’m lucky enough to be one of them,  and it’s a better rush than almost anything else I get to do.

The entire Tron: Legacy soundtrack is fantastic, and there are far more “classically Daft Punk” sections, but only this track is so achingly beautiful.



So a long long time ago, waaay back at Pennsic XXI, I went to the heraldic submissions tent at Pennsic, and sat down in front of the herald (Master Talon) and he documented me up a name (I don’t even think that’s doable anymore, can you register your name or device at Pennsic these days?)

Anyway, the name I came up with was Andrew (my regular name), Blackwood (the last name of one of my drumline buddies from college), MacBaine (the last name of a girl I met in Model UN), the Purple (appelation due to garb by HRM Katya).

That was the first step down a long path that hasn’t been bad, necessarily, but… well, that guy was kind of a jerk. Self-centered, a little too loud, quick to seek the spotlight… always meaning well, never really pursuing anything improper, but showing a significant lack of mindfulness and acceptance.

I’m not that guy anymore. I haven’t been that guy, actually, for about seven years. But memories are long, and names are hard to rehabilitate sometimes, so after trying to use social media and verbal pressure to divest myself of some baggage, I’ve realized that the time has come to make substantive changes in that arena.

Way back when I first apprenticed, a queen told me that Purple could be the color of Royalty, or the color of a bruise. I’m neither, so it’s time to stop.

On friday, I submitted paperwork to the proper herald to register the name Andreas Blacwode. It’s a good, solid Norman name, with a nod to the past, but a sharp break. I have released the name Andrew Blackwood MacBaine the Purple altogether, and I will absolutely be doing my best to not respond to anything but Andreas. (Or any of the regular epithets.)

This will also help -me- remember to be the person I am, and not the person I was.

I appreciate my friends helping me with this.


Nightmare Fuel, Day Three.

Here’s a new prompt for Nightmare Fuel from my friend Bliss Morgan.


Usually the light in the corridor between the doors is turned off.  When I have the strength to crawl across the floor and then lever myself up on my crutches, and I look through the round window, all I can see is the glowing holes at the other end, baleful eyes glaring at me, casting murky patterns of shadow and light on the floor and walls between.

But tonight.  Tonight I can see the length of the space.  The light woke me up, and after panting my way up the wall and lurching around to lean against it, I look through the reinforced glass, and I can see everything.


The floor is black, and flecked with grey speckles, and the walls are white.  The ceiling is tiled, fluorescents flickering in them, and they reflect off of the floor.  There’s a railing on the left side of the room, but wait, that’s not a railing, why would railing have chains looped through them?

On the right side are two beds.  One is empty.

The other is not.

I can see everything.

The empty bed is made, clean sheets, clean blanket, clean pillow and case.  The other bed is occupied.  All I can see is the top of their head.  It moves every so often.

I turn and put my ear to the window.  Yes.  I can hear muffled moans.

I turn back to look throught the window and knock on the door.  “Hello?” I call.  “Can you hear me?  I’ve been here a long time!”

No answer.  And as I raise my hand to knock again, the doors at the far end open.

Two people in lab coats walk in, carrying clipboards.  One stands over the person in the bed, performing all the usual medical tests.  Eyes, ears, throat, pulse… but wait.  That arm.  It’s missing.  The hand.  The doctor pulls up the other arm, also handless.  I stare through the window at the arm stumps, wrapped in white bandages, red stains at the very ends.

I can see everything.

Then the other doctor steps around and pulls a scalpel out of her pocket.  And with a quick slice.  Cuts off an ear.

The first doctor has turned away from me but then I see that he has cut off the other ear.  They wrap the occupant’s head with bandages, while the patient thrashes on the bed.  They give the patient a shot from a syringe, and the thrashing stops.

Then they go to the far doors and leave, but before they do, I can see that one doctor is chewing on the ear he holds.  Worrying it with his teeth, like a piece of jerky.

I pound on the door, shouting incoherently.  The female doctor glances up at me and nudges the other one.  He looks at me.  Tearing on the ear in his mouth.  He nods.  A promise.  To return.

Then they leave, and as they go, the lights in the corridor go out.  I can see is the glowing holes at the other end, baleful eyes glaring at me, casting murky patterns of shadow and light on the floor and walls between.

I close my eyes.  I sink to the floor.

I can see everything.

Nightmare Fuel, Day Two

My friend, Bliss Morgan, does a daily writing prompt on Google+ in October called “Nightmare Fuel”.  This is Day Two.

14 - 1

Congratulations on purchasing your new Ocular Enhancer 3000 from TBM Industries!  In your shipment, you will find one (1) Ocular Enhancer 3000, one (1) Ocular Enhancer Storage Case, one VoxxStopper 99, and one (1) Ocular Adjuster 5.1.  Before you can use your Ocular Enhancer 3000, please follow these instructions:


  1. Place the Ocular Enhancer 3000 in its storage case.
  2. Remove the Ocular Adjuster 5.1 from its packaging.
  3. Remove the VoxxStopper 99 from its packaging.
  4. Appropriately place the VoxxStopper 99 in position, between the Maxial plates and down through the Esophagal tunnel.
  5. Keeping the Cranial Globe steady, position the Ocular Adjuster 5.1 before one of your two Ocular Organ.
  6. Slowly move the Ocular Adjuster 5.1 towards the Ocular Organ while turning the handle on the rear of the device.
  7. When Ocular Organ is properly adjusted, repeat with the other Ocular Organ.
  8. When both Ocular Organs have been properly adjusted, remove Ocular Enhancer 3000 from its storage case and install.
  9. Remove VoxxStopper 99 from Esophagal tunnel.
  10. Congratulations!  Welcome to life with your Ocular Enhancer!


Note: TBM Industries is not responsible for improper Ocular Adjustments or incorrect Ocular Enhancer installation, or improper use of the VoxxStopper 99.  If Ocular Adjustments do not occur properly, seek medical attention.  You may wish to have a friend hold your Cranial Globe while applying the Ocular Adjuster.  This device not regulated by the FDA, the AMA or any other agency.  Use at your own risk.  Oh my god, you’re blind.

Copyright © Three Blind Mice Industries.

Nightmare Fuel, Day One

My friend, Bliss Morgan, does a daily writing prompt on Google+ in October called “Nightmare Fuel”.  This is Day One.

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I’m happy to see you.  I don’t get to see people very often.  They don’t like to come here. It’s dark, and cold.  For them.  I can see fine, and I am not cold.

I’m glad you’re here.  I don’t get to talk to people much.  Everyone wants to talk over me, and I never get a word in edgewise.  My ears work, you know.  Why don’t yours?

I’m pleased with your visit.  Folks don’t usually stay long.  My furniture is damp and uncomfortable.  I like it, of course, but not everyone does.

I’m gratified you came.  I spend a lot of time alone.  And I’m so very, very hungry.