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Not failing is succeeding

Not failing is succeeding

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These are indisputable facts axioms about success:

  1. Everybody wants success

  2. There are many people peddling recipes for success

  3. None of those recipes worked for anyone else except the person peddling it

  4. No one knows for sure how to make success certain

  5. The only true advice given are platitudes (perseverance, grit, passion etc) - but these are self-evident to the point of worthlessness.

I have always found it hilarious when commentators (say football) describe a movement that was so fantastic and brilliant, only to fail at the last moment when someone dropped the ball. The mentality being that they failed at the final hurdle.

The fact is, the point where you fumble, drop the ball and fail, is always at the last hurdle - at the last pass. There cannot be another pass if you dropped the ball so it always the last pass. The hurdle at which you fell is always your ‘final’ hurdle because it is the last one you attempted.

This is the way people look at failure, and this is the way we look at success. People look for that one thing that put you over the top - the one thing that made a difference. That one thing that explains it all.

There is never one thing that explains it all.

Since it is human nature to want to (a) survive, then (b) thrive and (c)  grow; we seek to understand how we may do that, and we look for that one answer that explains it all.

Reality is a lot more complex.

Before the player dropped the ball, there were a myriad of other moves that where people were marginally too slow, to fast, to high etc - which then culminated in a configuration of players and ball that resulted in the dropped ball. A ball can be dropped due to fatigue, pressure, lack of skill or any combination of (other) reasons. Just because you dropped the ball and you could not score the try, it is not the reason you did not score the try.

Any event is part of a chain of events. Our simple mindedness seeks to attribute too much weight to that final event. A virus may cause the flu, but can you ignore the fact that your system was rundown, that you kissed an infected person, that you were in the wrong place at the wrong time --- all factors that could have put you out of harm’s way.

If there is no single thing we can pursue to assure success, what are we to do?

It stands to reason that our approach should confirm with reality.

If there are many reasons that contribute to success or failure, then we should seek to NOT fail at all those little things, rather than aim for the glory shot.

A boxer rarely knocks the opponent out with a single punch, even though it may appear that way.

If you want to hit the target, you need to not screw up many, many things. You may think all that it takes to hit the target is to aim straight. But in order to aim straight, you need a lot of other things not go wrong.

Because there is not one single thing you can do to attain success, there is no simple recipe. When Stephen Bradbury won his Olympic skating medal it was a clear case of ‘not screwing up’. This does not mean success is about waiting for others to fail, because that makes achieving success a passive fluke. The winner of any race is the one who did everything they needed to do AND not make mistakes. The point is that doing everything you need to do is on one level generic (commitment, passion etc) and on another it is specific (run, shoot, kick, sell etc) and whilst necessary, neither of these types of activities are sufficient to ensure success.

The takeaway from this is:
Don’t look to gurus who peddle a recipe that worked for them. Look to all the failures around you and learn what not to do. There are many more examples of failure than there are of success and with such a big population of mistakes, statistically the conclusions are likely to be more valid.

Failures have more in common than successes.
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