Lessons Learned from a Building Project Gone Wrong

For the past three-and-a-bit years, I have been sharing stories from my personal and professional life here with readers around the world. I have been sharing the highs and lows. Today will be another vulnerable and personal post. I want to talk about a challenge I am currently facing with our building project. Remember, I had this dream of turning our old barn into a space for workshops, yoga and co-creation?

So here is what happened: I trusted a firm with little experience to build our workshop barn, and unfortunately, they went bankrupt before completing the project. Now, we are left with a project that is only 30% complete (it does not even have a roof!) and the prospect of it all being much more expensive than we initially thought.

Why did I fall into this trap? Why did I not see earlier that this project was underfinanced and that the company was out of its depth? There were many signs in that direction, there were people who warned me and still, I persevered.

I want to reflect on some of the biases that may have influenced my decision-making.

  • The halo effect: This is the tendency to assume that because a person or company excels in one area, they will excel in others. In our case, we believed that the CEO of the firm seemed smart and capable – a successful investor, so we assumed that the rest of the company would be too. Turns out, “the successful investor” was just a facade with not much behind in terms of commercial success
  • Sunk cost bias: This is the tendency to continue investing time, money, and resources into a project even when it is not producing the desired outcome. In our case, we had already invested time and money into the project, so we were hesitant to cut our losses and start over with a more experienced firm
  • My optimism: This is a wonderful trait, to always see the glass half full, to have faith in the universe and yet, in this particular case, I believe it led me down the wrong path, because it blurred my vision, so I failed to see the evidence clearly: the flimsy planning, the unrealistic calculation with the too-good-to-be-true price tag, the deadlines that were not kept, the lack of knowledge that showed in many occasions.

So what now? The situation is looking grim at the moment. The project will be much more expensive than we originally thought. I am not sure how we can afford this. Instead of finishing the project, our goal for this year is at least to put on a roof and make the thing weather-proof best we can.

There are many emotions at play right now. I am sad. I feel ashamed. I am a little bit angry, too – not sure at who, though. Myself maybe. The building firm? Not really. Anger and revenge would not be helpful. And there is another feeling: I am grateful.

I am grateful that Klaus is with me all the way and that he does not blame me for anything and is not angry at me because I was the one pushing to go with this company, to go onto this workshop barn adventure in the first place. I convinced him to put his money into this project.

I am struggling with my feelings of shame. This article is one way to overcome them. Shame is such a powerful emotion that can hold people back from asking for help or taking action. According to psychological research by Brené Brown, shame is often linked to the fear of disconnection from others. We may believe that if we admit to our mistakes or shortcomings, we will be rejected or judged by others. However, this fear is often unfounded, and acknowledging our mistakes can actually be a powerful way to connect with others and build trust.

So, even though I feel ashamed of having been naive and not done more research before choosing a firm for our building project, I am trying to push past that shame and focus on finding solutions. One of the steps I am considering is launching a crowdfunding campaign. While this is not a guarantee of success, I am thinking that it might be a way to connect with others who are willing to support our project and share our vision for turning the completed barn into a space for workshopping, practicing yoga, and co-creating together.

Another idea would be to enter into a barter deal with the new building company, offering them team a coaching journey or leadership sparring to cover part of the cost.

I hope that by acknowledging my biases and pushing past the shame, I will find ways to learn from this fuckup, to move forward and ultimately turn this old barn into a unique space for creativity, connection, and growth.

Sending you warm greetings.

P.S.: I got some assistance for writing this blog post from Chat GPT – credit where credit is due. 🙂

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