Tag Archives: effort

When is failing, failure?

This is a question I’ve had the opportunity to consider in my work role that I commenced earlier this year. A core component is determining the presence of the scientific method in assessing complex research and development projects.

In science, I’ve learned failing is a lesson, a pathway to a revised experiment. In life, failing is more often seen as being unsuccessful. The reality is, though, that failing only becomes failure when we cease trying.

Muhammad Ali was a great boxer, deemed by many to be ‘The Greatest’ of the 20th century, perhaps all-time. As a boxer, he was knocked-down by opponents. How many world titles did he win from the canvas? He won world titles not by staying down, but by rising up and continuing to fight. Boxing analogies are well-used I know, but that’s because they reflect what many of us do not do. When we’re struck down, floored by an unseen challenge, we spend too much time working out how and why when we should be readying ourselves for the next round.

Are we using failing as an opportunity to learn and go again, or we allowing it to nudge us closer to failure?

This is where we need to adopt the view of science, not the world. We need to measure our efforts, our plans, by the systematic progression of work we’re employing, not by the immediate outcome.

Adopting the scientific method into our own world means that we begin with the idea, the dream, the goal. Around this we develop a framework of what we think is required – the skills, the knowledge, the relationships, the courage. This provides the platform for our ‘experiment’ where we infuse the idea with effort, where we give it a go.

At this point, the immediate outcome may not be the final result. If our effort delivers the outcome we desired, fantastic – move onto the next idea! If the outcome is not what we desired, fantastic – move back to the framework we created and alter, refine and expand. If the result remains the same after several iterations of the framework, we may even need to go back to the original idea to determine if this is valid for us at this point in time.

The famous quote attributed to the inventor of the lightbulb, Thomas Edison, epitomises the scientific method ‘I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.’

Failing only becomes failure when we cease trying.


Is the impossible possible?

As a toddler I recall seeing my tradesmen Dad climbing ladders, carting tools across rooftops and even driving a car! At that point in my life those things seemed impossible, only possible by my Superdad! With age and experience came an understanding that all of those things were entirely possible for me. Yet, even with this insight I still find myself applying my toddler impossibility mindset to situations.

Steve Jobs, the recently deceased Apple visionary, was referred by many in his team as having a “reality distortion field”. A former Macintosh developer stated this in clearer terms “Steve was able to convince people that the impossible was possible”. Whilst not all of us have the vision and drive of Steve Jobs, we can remove the blinkers from our eyes to see beyond the everyday ‘possible’.

Many of the amazing feats of engineering, medical and scientific breakthroughs, and even exploration were once deemed impossible. Placing a man on the moon was the realm of science fiction. To suggest one could circumnavigate the earth was almost worthy of witchcraft!

Something incredibly worthy that appears unlikely now should be all the more reason for us to explore how to make the impossible possible.


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A 5-year-old ability does not yield a 12-year-old result

Running a family isn’t all beer and skittles you know, sometimes there’s work to be done! The lawn needs to be mowed, clothes washed and ironed (sometimes), beds made, rooms tidied, dishes done, floors mopped, bathrooms refreshed, toys packed away and so on. This stuff isn’t necessarily enjoyable but it’s the practical side of a building a family.

Team Mahoney is, well, a team. Not always a highly functioning team but a team nonetheless! Being a team we’re all responsible for the effective running of our home and as such there is a clear expectation that we will each contribute. A key I have learnt though is that whilst I have an equal expectation that we will each contribute, I need to have a different expectation as to outcome.

The simple fact is my 5-year-old has a different capacity to my 12-year-old and therefore a different outcome must be expected. I need to balance the anticipated result with the team member’s actual ability along with their application. If the ability is lacking (from my perspective), then this could simply be a function of age as well as how effectively the “how” has been demonstrated. Importantly, Team Mahoney have a number of age-specific tasks. For instance, my 5-year-old is a gun with matching socks and putting his clothes away – that’s his contribution to the laundry!

Accepting the varying outcomes also means that the work may have to be redone. Not immediately in the presence of the one who first attempted, but at a later time. Either that, or we need to be content with a result that is less than we would expect from ourselves (or an older sibling).

So if we want to ensure that each family member is afforded equal opportunity to contribute, then we need to accept different outcomes, and we need to equally praise the outcomes based on effort. Happy parenting!


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The Big Mo!

Momentum, the Big Mo! Expressed in Newton’s Second Law, momentum of an object is (in basic terms) the product of its mass and velocity. The greater the mass and the greater the speed, the greater the momentum.

Think of the cartoons where we’ve seen a snowball rolling down a mountainside, starting small, increasing in speed, gathering more snow, eventually becoming a huge mass of destruction. The Big Mo in action!

You want to achieve something of significance? You need the Big Mo. You need a measurable, definitive effort (this is your mass) coupled to consistent, forward motion
(your velocity) and momentum builds which keeps you rolling towards the target.

Build enough momentum and you will attract more support, adding to your mass.
Build enough momentum and you will remain on course, towards your goal.
Build enough momentum and you will gain both traction and speed.
Build enough momentum and you will succeed.

The power of a concerted, consistent effort towards a clear goal cannot be underestimated. If you need convincing, look to the history books which are littered with examples of an individual’s fervent passion becoming a cause supported by many which, in turn, changes the path of history: the Suffragette Emmeline Parkhurst championing the cause of a woman’s right to vote in the early 20th century, Australia’s Eddie Mabo’s determination in obtaining native title for his people in 1992 after a ten-year journey, even the work of 16th century Copernicus placing the Sun at the centre of the universe which is often regarded as the starting point of modern astronomy.  All started with one person and one big idea.

Your idea may not be to change the course of the world (although it could be!). Your idea could importantly be to secure your career through further study, or start down the
path to your own business enterprise, or to step out to restore a broken family relationship, or even step up to lead a team – causes that will change the course of YOUR world and those within it.

Create the mass, add some speed and get the Big Mo rolling!

Let hope rise.

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