Tag Archives: outcome

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.


Complete or just correct?

I had occasion to replace my car’s headlight bulb. Unaccustomed to vehicular maintenance I consulted the owner’s manual (I acknowledge this is not a particularly blokey thing to do!) which was very clear in its instructions leading me to expect a simple and quick replacement.

The manual identified the key steps – opening the bonnet, removing the headlight assembly bolts, removing the bulb cover, disconnecting the socket, unsnapping the retaining wire, removing the bulb and then inserting the new bulb and completing the reverse of the original steps. Simple!

The steps were easy to follow and they were correct. However, the location of the bulb covers also required the removal of the water reservoir. This wasn’t mentioned in the instructions! A quick google search identified that this essential ‘extra’ was indeed necessary. So the instructions were correct, just not complete.

I’ve found that often I too can be correct, rather than complete. Whilst the idea of being right comforts me, surely it’s far more impacting to provide the tools for something to be done it its entirety. My focus needs to move away from purely the essential items to consideration of the variables. This will deliver a far more comprehensive outcome for all concerned.

Consider a relationship. Is it more important to adopt a ‘correct’ communication strategy or one that is complete? Just because I ticked all the boxes and delivered the message, did I ensure it was understood? It is this additional consideration that enables completion.

What about teaching or training? Is it only beneficial to identify the 5 critical steps or would the 5 steps along with identification of outliers deliver a more comprehensive result?

Choose today – complete or just correct?

There’s always a cost for the things you don’t finis_

The company had ceased trading, the accounts had been finalised, everything had been wrapped up – or so I thought. I had neglected the simple step of deregistering the company with the result being the annual fees had now become payable again. This wasn’t a huge amount of money in the overall scheme of things but it was a cost purely because I hadn’t finished the job.

How often do we neglect wrapping something up neatly only for it to return and cost us something? It may be time, it may be dollars (as it was for me), it may be inconvenience or discomfort, or it could be something more significant. Regardless of what the cost is, it comes wrapped in frustration knowing it was totally avoidable.

As we move through life we often commence things. We may hold the intent to finish however another opportunity may misdirect us, a roadblock may cause us to park the idea, or we may simply become bored, tired or fearful that we can’t do it. Sometimes the cost comes to our pride. Many times the cost comes at the expense of the next opportunity when we assess it against the number of incomplete events in our lives. Michael Yardney, an Australian author focused on wealth creation through property, recently tweeted “failure is only the opportunity to begin again, this time more wisely”. There is a lot of truth in that but whilst we begin again, we must be committed to finishing.

It doesn’t matter what the reason or justification is for not finishing, if we do not close it properly we can be guaranteed there will be a cost. If we’re not prepared to pay that cost, then we must finish the job.