Broaden the Definition of Failure

 
Failure sounds so final, like there is no recovery but the truth is that you can recover from all but the most catastrophic failure. As long as the end result is not death recovery is possible.

I’m not one of those pie in the sky, failure is a gift, kind of people but I do believe a lot can be learned from mistakes and that failure is far more common than we like to admit. Some people don’t want to focus on failures but I want to expand the definition and see failure even in success. If I can pick out the one thing I did wrong in an otherwise successful endeavor, I’ll be even better the next time.

FailinsuccessFailure is not the opposite of success!

Without a crystal ball it’s easy to think of every setback as a catastrophe but the reality is that it’s probably just a bump in the road.

When my most requested massage therapist quit I thought my spa business was doomed, that my descent into bankruptcy was beginning (yes I can be over dramatic sometimes). The reality was that we had many capable and skilled therapists who could and did pick up the slack. Instead of bankruptcy, our revenue increased every week after her departure.

But there was still failure in this situation. I’m not sure the outcome would have been any different but I could have worked smarter to keep her rather than letting my stubbornness get in the way.

Later when another therapist was showing up late, calling out, and otherwise being disruptive, I was less worried. Again she was our most requested therapist but I knew we’d be just fine without her. I had many conversations with her to discover the source of her behavior but to no avail. The outcome was the same, other capable therapists took up the slack and revenue stayed on its upward trajectory.

In each case I failed in some way but I was able to manage the situation, look inside myself and come up with changes to improve myself and my business. If instead of seeing these events as failures, I just saw them as the normal course of doing business, I would not learn from them, I would not be able to make the necessary adjustments to improve my connection with my employees.

I see failure all around because my definition is broader than most, and while I sometimes panic and think the end of the world is near, I know that a solution is probably near as well.


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The RFR Principle

 
The RFR Principle says that three elements are necessary for success and they are, in this order, Risk, Failure, and Reward. The RFR Process is the continual movement of these three elements.

RFRTo quote Yoda “Do or do not. There is no try.” Doing however takes risk. Staying in bed never making an effort has no risk but also no reward. Starting a business, applying for a new job, asking someone out, all involve risk. Some risks have a high price tag and it’s those that some avoid, others rush into, and still others plan and approach sensibly.

Failure is a an option, it’s also unavoidable. Failure is not the opposite of success in spite of everything you’ve probably been told. Failure is merely a setback. You’ve taken the risk, asked the love of your life out on a date and when you try to pay your credit card is denied. You think it’s over, that she’ll never go out with you again – it feels devastating in the moment but it’s unlikely to be your last date.

Finally the last part of the RFR Principle is reward but rewards are not permanent. If you’ve taken the risk, had setbacks, failures that you thought would end it all, and still came through, then you’ve reaped the reward but it won’t last unless the process is repeated. Too many people look at the success of a reward as an end, a goal to be achieved, but it’s really just a rest stop on the hike of life.

All three elements of success revolve around each other. If one stops the whole process breaks down. Keeping those elements in motion is the willingness to ask What Next, the ambition to overcome complacency, the strength to face obstacles head on.


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Are You Ready?

 
Breaking-News-1I work in the frenetic world of television news (luckily it’s not the every-single-bit-of-information-is-breaking-news world of cable). While I’m no longer in the trenches of a daily broadcast, I remember the deadlines, the last minute changes, the real breaking news events that required us to shift into a very high gear and sometimes stay there for hours or days.

When the news was slow and predictable you could rest, but one of my managers would always ask, “are you ready?” The question would catch me off guard but the answer was always yes. Yes I was ready for breaking news, ready to spring into action, ready for the pressure, the intensity of the job.

So my question for you is, “are you ready?” Are you ready for the intensity of life, the sudden and unexpected turns life can take?

What are you doing to get ready? Are you being passive, waiting to react or are you being curious, trying new things, practicing? Following a single path to success isn’t enough any more. You have to branch out and explore the tributaries of life.

I was asked my advice on how to take a chance and follow a different path – my answer was to treat every new idea, every new adventure as a hobby. Don’t quit your day job, don’t rush into anything. Start small and try it out. If you enjoy it, if you find success you will be able to accelerate but if you fail, if you find it more difficult than you expected, stopping won’t be devestating.

Here’s an image I saw but I’d like to modify it a bit to fit the idea of being ready.

Definition of entrepreneurship

My change? Be ready: Avoid instant gratification now to exploit real opportunities as they come.

BeReady

What are you doing to be ready? Share your thoughts below and get the conversation going.

 


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Recapping 2012 Part 5 of ??

 
bullseye

Now this is funny. I began writing the introduction below in order to recap a post about failure but changed my mind. The introduction below remained but even though I selected a different post. Now the introduction doesn’t make sense but it is an excellent example of my good intentions not being executed well. Read on, it’s still a favorite post of mine!

I began this series to resurrect some of my favorite posts of 2012, to give new readers an opportunity to see what could easily have been lost to the archive. With more than 12 days before Christmas I figured I would have been much further along than the fifth installment. Oh well, my intentions were good but my execution, not so much. That’s a common thing with me, good intentions, bad execution and that is sometimes perceived as failure by others but more importantly by me. In 2012 I learned that failure is not a bad word, that much can be learned from failing and that if you never fail you aren’t attempting big enough goals.

Creativity Begets Creativity

Creativity begets creativity. If you want to be more creative then hang out with creative people, or read about them, or watch them on TV. If you want to be creative find a way to experience other people’s creativity.

I’ve seen a few tweets about something called World Creativity and Innovation Week. I’m too busy to look up what that is because I’m exploring how it can help me. A friend tweeted this:

Creativity Tweet

Curious exploration

Being a curious person I clicked the link and then clicked the second story in the list which took me to a post by Mike Brown. In his post Mr. Brown told a story about seeing a poster called Peter’s Laws which he modified and turned into questions to spark creativity.Peter's Laws

Again being curious I wondered what the origin of Peter’s Laws was. A Google search later I had my answer with this webpage. Peter Diamandis is the founder and chairman of the X PRIZE Foundation which is most famous for their $10,000,000 Ansari X PRIZE for private space flight which Burt Rutan won.

Back to Peter’s Laws

A couple of the laws caught my eye because they fit so nicely with the concepts in What Next.

One law reads “When given a choice…take both!!” and that is an essential part of asking What Wext. You can walk multiple paths in life – we all do it as spouses, parents, employees, business people, and friends. What successful people do is excel on multiple paths and that takes dedication and work. If you aren’t dedicated and/or aren’t willing to work, then you won’t succeed.

The Peter’s Law that immediately follows the one above is “Multiple projects lead to multiple successes” and again we have the key point of What Next. The do one thing well concept is just as wrong as the jack of all trades master of none concept. Who says you can’t do lots of things really well or at least hire people who can?

Back to Creativity

I wasn’t sure what I was going to write my next blog post about but reading Mike Brown’s post and being curious enough to do a little research sparked my creativity and led me to write this, proving that creativity begets creativity. The same can be said about the other traits of What Next: curiosity begets curiosity, adventure begets adventure, action begets action, and success begets success. If you want any of those things then get to know people who exhibit those traits and start spending time with them.

As another of Peter’s Laws states “When faced without a challenge, make one” this is your challenge, to succeed, so what are you going to do about it?


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Success is Not Linear

 
The phrase two steps forward, one step back epitomizes the difficult and sometimes random nature of success. Things can seem like they’re going well and suddenly a setback or obstacle comes out of nowhere and all the hard work to get where you are seems in jeopardy.

Scatter Chart 2If you’ve ever seen a scatter chart that is what success really looks like – some highs, some lows, and some direct hits scattered around a target or goal. As I embark on my latest What Next plan I’m seeing this in practice. Certain assumptions are being challenged or proven completely wrong while others are going as planned.

Sometimes one of the lows feels like you’ve taken two steps back but only one step forward. Get used to it because that is exactly what will happen. Remember, however, that there will be times that you also feel like you’ve taken five steps Scatter Chart Trend Lineforward and one step back. It’s the trend line that makes the difference. This same chart with a line running through the center shows that in spite of setbacks progress can and does continue.

It’s when the line begins to dip and there are more lows than there are highs that things need to change. Take setbacks in stride but keep a watch on the trend line.


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Failure is Neither Bad Nor Good

 
I’m failing, floundering, becoming discouraged and I’m ready to give up. But I don’t.

What makes a person continue in spite of the odds, through setback after setback? Is it stupidity, passion, drive? Yup.

So many things that have become wildly successful have been called stupid. Everyone loves to make fun of the Snuggie The Snuggiebut I’d love to have that kind of revenue. Ted Turner was laughed at when he started CNN or as his detractors called it, The Chicken Noodle Network, but it was the first of its kind and pioneered an industry.

Passion can carry you far because passion is the fuel that keeps us going in spite of the obstacles. I believe in What Next, that the concept will inspire others to pursue their dreams. I’m willing to expend the effort to spread the word and share my message, even if I think no one is listening.

Drive is the product of inspiration and motivation. To succeed one must be driven to push past the failure. Achievement is the net value of all your successes and failures, if it’s positive you’ve won, and if it’s negative you’ve grown, learned from the experience. Failure is neither good nor bad, it’s what you get out of it that matters. Which is why you should never be afraid to fail; unwilling to fail, averse to failure, yes, but not afraid to fail.

My curiosity, and the massive amount of time I spend online, led to the discovery of The Failure Club. That doesn’t sound like a club I’d like to join but the fact is that I’m already a member and will earn my membership many more times. The concept of the failure club is to push yourself even though you know that the chances of success are slim, that you will probably fail. Failure Club is the expression “It is better to have tried and failed than to never have tried” put into practice.

I don’t watch much television but this is a web program I’m going to watch from beginning to end.

Are you willing to step out on the stage of life and declare that you believe in something so much that you are willing to fail? Then do it! Share your what next with us. Say it out loud and take action. Do not be afraid to fail because if you let your fear win, you’ve already failed.


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Trusted Fools

 
Meredith Whitney is very smart and very rich, getting paid lots of money to give financial advice. I’m sure the people who have listened to her have done well. But she has also made some really bad calls and the thing that got me, recently, was that one of those predictions, that there would be hundreds of billions of dollars of municipal bond defaults by December 2011, has garnered her a book deal. That’s right, she will soon have a book about a topic she was completely wrong about. I’m sure she’ll justify that misstep somehow but I, for one, won’t be buying that book.

As an author of a book about success, I guess I’m just not wrong enough to get a publisher or be interviewed on 60 Minutes. Watch the video below. Her prediction comes at 2:30 in.

Meredith Whitney is just another example of people making really dumb predictions, or doing really dumb things and becoming even more successful. I call this the fail up principle and it’s alive and well in the United States.

I wrote a rather impassioned blog post about one such person back in November, 2011. Carl Richards, aka Behavior Gap, has been held up as a financial sage for his clever drawings that simplify and astutely illustrate everything that Carl Richards has done wrong. If only he followed his own advice he’d actually have done well in life. Oh wait, in spite of a series of colossally bad decisions that culminated in Mr. Richards ruining his credit and losing his home to a short sale, he has a book deal, writes for the New York Times, and has a new job as, get this, director of investor education at St. Louis-based BAM Advisor Services.

I rarely write letters to the editor of magazines but I had to when I saw a glowing review of a book written by a guy who should still be in hiding for Dow 36,000his reckless advice over a decade ago. I’m speaking of James Glassman who co-authored a book titled Dow 36,000 just before the bursting of the internet bubble and well before the even worse economic crisis of 2008. This so called expert was either trying to cash in or is completely clueless.

Glassman wrote another book in 2011 that offered nothing new. In the letter I wrote to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine I said Glassman’s latest book is “the same advice that honest financial advisors have been giving for decades.” At least this time his book didn’t push investors off a cliff.

I learned of Carl Richards’s horrible personal finance skills in an article he wrote in the NY Times, that’s right, a financial planner who was so dumb as to lose almost everything he had gained, got a job as a contributor to the NY Times – failing up. But would you believe that this is not the first time a New York Times financial writer was Busteda financial mess. I’m sure Edmund L. Andrews, economic reporter, did just fine as he too was granted a book contract to chronicle his stupidity – losing his home to foreclosure.

I’m still amazed that Jim Cramer is so popular. Who can forget Mr. Cramer saying that Bear Stearns was just fine? Actually he was right – all the executives at the former Bear Stearns are still incredibly rich, it was the stock holders who lost it all. At the height of the housing frenzy in 2006 Mr. Cramer said he was drawing a line in the sand, “planting a flag” on homebuilder stocks, saying that “this is the point where Centex, Lennar, Toll Brother, and KB home are done going down.” They went much farther down but that’s ok because he still has plenty of suckers, I mean viewers.

I’m doing just fine, maybe not as well as I could if I was a complete idiot but well enough for me. For the few who read my blog and my book, they can either accept my advice or ignore it but at least I’ve been consistently correct or maybe that’s my problem.


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