Tag Archives: success

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.


Inconvenient success

It’s rare to have one’s ducks all in row, leading to a strategically planned and executed successful outcome. It’s more often the case that an unexpected challenge prompts a need for action or a different direction.

Can we still have a successful outcome arising from uncertainty?

The opportunity for success, for growth and development, rarely arrives in a neatly packaged convenient bundle. The intersection of our plans and goals with the unexpected, creates inconvenience. It is how we respond to this inconvenience that shapes our attitude towards success. The ability to regroup, take stock and adjust course is fundamental to continued personal and professional growth and, ultimately, success (however we may measure this).

Success through inconvenience builds our resilience and sharpens our skillsets. Rather than viewing inconvenience as something to be avoided, perhaps we should search within the inconvenience for the opportunity.


Lessons from a lost ship

Did you know Australia has a Chief Scientist?

No? Well, we do and in early March our newly appointed Chief Scientist, Dr Finkel, addressed the National Press Club as part of an event run by Science & Technology Australia.

Dr Finkel shared a story about a small nation with middle-power ambitions. A nation in transition with a growing population and a commodity-based economy.

…But this small nation was well aware of its uncertain place in a strategic region at a volatile time. So it embarked on a bold exercise to build a flagship for its navy that would also be a statement about its place in the world.

The setting is Sweden, four hundred year ago, in 1625. Now this was no ordinary ship that the Swedes contracted the Dutch, who subcontracted the Germans, Danes and Finns, to build. This was something that no-one in Sweden had ever attempted before: a 135 foot warship with two decks, each bearing 36 cannons.

And it had to be built on the keel of the 110 foot, one-deck warship the contractors were initially instructed to build. That ship was half done when the King changed his mind – inspired by the thought of an extra deck, with extra cannons.

So the builders set to work, and they did their best to adapt the keel, while the King went off to fight his war with Poland.

By August 1628 the ship was ready. All of Stockholm gathered at the harbour for the launch of this mighty symbol of Swedish pride. And all of Stockholm was still there when, twenty minutes after the launch, tilted by the gentle nudge of a light sea breeze, it sank – less than one nautical mile from dock.

This ship – the Vasa – has sailed into business school history: as the textbook case in innovation done wrong.

The ship and 53 lives were lost as a result.

That ship sat on the bottom of the harbour for 333 years. Then it was raised in 1961 – almost perfectly preserved, ornamental mermaids and all. Raising it was a phenomenal feat of ingenuity and engineering. It was installed in a purpose-built museum, where more than a million people every year line up to see it. To Sweden, the Vasa is now a great source of national pride.

Because Sweden didn’t give up on building ships. They built two-deck gunships. They built three-deck gunships. Gunships that became the pride of the Swedish military for the next thirty years.

They helped to usher in the age the Swedes call stormaktstiden – the Great Power Period.

Failure – repurposed as a symbol of success.

But we don’t have to get there from the bottom of the harbour.

Let’s take the direct path to our own stormaktstiden, our Great Power Period.


Do you have the 2 A’s of success?

I’m sure you, like me, have often heard about the “keys” to success as if it is something that is otherwise locked, secured, not readily accessible. What I’ve found though is that while success (whatever this means for you in your world) does not automatically arrive, it is available if you’re willing to attune your life towards it.

My personal experience suggests that we require not so much as a key to unlock success but rather two A’s: ATTITUDE and APPLICATION.

An attitude angled towards what it is we’re desiring; an attitude of possibility; an attitude of overcoming; an attitude of belief. This for me has been the easiest part. I’ve been able to devour the many excellent books available from the likes of John Maxwell, Jim Collins, Robert Kyiosaki, Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Og Mandino and so on along with stories about and from entrepreneurs such as Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Guy Kawasaki plus the success stories of athletes as diverse as Michael Jordan and Darren Lockyer. Couple this to inspiring profiles of the likes Nelson Mandela and I understand that ATTITUDE is everything. If this was the sole key to success, then I would be successful beyond my wildest dreams!

The transforming key is APPLICATION. Taking our attitude and actually having the courage to apply it to our worlds. This is often the chasm between two high points.

Since we started with keys, let’s finish with a couple that work for me…

1. Create the environment

You want joy? Deliberately cultivate a happy environment by what you think, what you say and what you do. Want productivity? Be strategic with your time – create plans and schedules, give yourself deadlines. Want better thinking? Absorb the works of some of the authors mentioned above, get stuck into God’s Word (yep, the Bible is the best self-help handbook available for around 2000 years!).

2. Decide what’s important

Are you chasing dollars and ‘stuff’? Or are you preferring to build people who can build other people? This starts with your family – your spouse, your children, YOURSELF. The first and foremost place to be investing is yourself. You need to see yourself as important, as essential to those around you. Start placing value on yourself and, perhaps surprisingly, so will others.

There are plenty of other steps in one’s journey to success but I reckon the foundation is really found in creating the environment you desire and deciding what success actually means in your world. Get these two sorted, throw in a decent measure of attitude and application, and the world truly becomes your oyster!


Image credit: coliap / 123RF Stock Photo

What makes a world champion?

Emma Snowsill, triple triathlon world champion, stated “I am made of everything to come, not just what has been. WOW! Seriously, WOW!!

Regardless of what our past looks like, many of us choose to remain there. Basking in the glory of a high school championship, lamenting a lost business… the past is the past and does not constitute our whole. Yes, it may be very significant, but so too can be what lies ahead. By holding tightly on to the past we potentially disregard our future as it’s difficult to retain a clear focus driving forward whilst continually glancing into the rear view mirror.

The challenge for each of us is to rationally accept the past – what is done IS done and it cannot be undone or redone. We need to learn from our mistakes, capitalise upon our successes and forgive those who have wronged us. These three keys will launch us into a future of greater promise and expectation.

Often we prefer the past because it is a given. There are no longer any surprises in the past whilst the future is clouded with uncertainty. The question then becomes: do we want a certain past accepting that life is now done or do we step out with a hint of courage to build an even bigger world?


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.

Photo: Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos