Achieving anything significant takes intentional focus and application.
It also takes curiosity, courage, grit, humility, an optimistic growth mindset, and lots of failure.
For the record, I’m not suggesting that falling short of a goal is a failure. It depends.
It depends on many factors, like how critical a goal is to the survival of your business or whether a personal goal means you can move to the next level. Mostly, it depends on your worldview and what you consider important or trivial.
As a regular recipient of failure, I’ve learned that the place to be is in the intelligent failure zone. In this zone, you’re supporting your curiosity with a systematic approach to exploration.
To be clear, I’m not talking about mistakes. Mistakes happen; they’re part of being human. Failure is different.
As Amy Edmondson discusses in this HBR article, ‘It’s ok to fail, but you have to do it right.’
The question is, “How do you turn failure into success?”
You have to get good at three things:
1) Detecting failure.
2) Analysing failure.
3) Promoting experimentation.
Much of how to go about this is context-dependent. So, let’s keep it simple and look at the example of airlines and failure.
No one wants airlines to fail, yet their ability to learn from failure (think sharing black box data amongst the network to become anti-fragile, using simulators to tolerate human error) provides us immensely safe travel.
Now, let’s consider the much-lauded (and misunderstood) startup concept of ‘failing fast’.
Failing fast has been a core pillar of modern digital product development, yet it has become a goal.
There are many benefits to rapidly building something, getting it in customers’ hands, seeing what happens and making your next move.
But failing fast is only helpful if you learn from it.
Vaughan, where is this going? How does this help me achieve?
Let’s get back to making 2024 your year to thrive.
Here’s what to do.
Take the well-understood concepts of a compelling vision, mission, and purpose, personal and business goals and apply the concept of deliberate practice.
Deliberate practice entails the following steps:
- Establish a stretch goal
- Focus 100% on this goal (periods of activity or practice)
- Get immediate and useful feedback
- Reflect on that feedback
- Refine your practice
If you want to learn more about deliberate practice I highly recommend the book Grit by Angela Duckworth.
A few valuable tips are common to both, whether you are focusing on personal or business ambition.
1) Avoid blaming yourself (and others); mistakes or sub-par outcomes happen.
2) Set up systems to catch and correct mistakes immediately and to keep you on track.
3) Recognise that mistakes are different to smart experiments in new territory.
4) Create a safe space fostering deliberate, honest learning exercises.
5) Reconnect with your purpose, why it matters to you and why it matters to the world
6) Share it often and invite others to help navigate the stormy waters.
7) The cadence of experimentation is essential to help build the muscle of designing, conducting, analysing and learning from good experiments.
I’ve found Ikigai a valuable method for developing your personal ambition system. I wrote an in-depth article on designing an intentional life here.
In summary, Ikigai is the concept of finding the overlap of doing what you love, what you’re good at, what the world needs, and what you can be paid for.
There are four main Ikigai steps:
1) Explore everything you are interested in over 3-6 months.
2) Choose what is most exciting or what you will continue with.
3) Reflect on what resonates deeply with you.
4) Create a strategy to move towards more of what you want.
Then, once you have found your new passion:
- Use deliberate practice – a very focused effort with immediate feedback. Repeat until you have attained unconscious competence.
- Harness your optimistic growth mindset to stay positive as you learn to do hard things.
I recently posted about my personal journey on LinkedIn (shaped by the Ikigai system). It seems a lot of other people like Jason, Elijah and Renuka have the same intent to find their Ikigai. If you’re in to branding, innovation and revenue growth, go say hi.
For developing your business ambition system, I recommend these approaches:
To get you started, here are a few prompts:
- Where do you envision your organisation in 2-3 years?
- What achievements would fill you with pride?
- What niche could you dominate globally or within your market?
- Envision success: What does it look like?
- Identify your profound passions.
- Define “winning” from your perspective and that of your customers and partners.
- Write a ‘press release from the future, describing in detail what you have achieved, what happened, how people responded, etc.
Try the ‘What, So What, Now What’ model for reflection:
- What happened (the event or issue).
- So what (the impact, what it means, how you felt).
- Now what (how to solve it, what you’ll do, your request).
Use a Post-mortem for reviewing a project or failure:
- Gain individual perspectives, capturing what worked and what didn’t.
- Focus on what happened, NOT who did it. Treat information as data to remove the emotion.
- Identify things that you did that contributed.
- Identify things that you didn’t do that may have helped.
- Identify common themes, root causes and contributing factors like organisation structures and capabilities.
The intent of today’s article has been to provide a structure and some tools to help you respond to falling short of your aspirations in a way that is kind to yourself, kind to others, truthful, robust and helpful to realign and get back on track so you can achieve more of what you set out to do.
⚡️ Call to Action
This week, clear your calendar and mind, find a calm yet motivating space and reflect on these questions and frameworks to help you get more clarity about your personal and business ambition.
2024 belongs to those who challenge themselves go after it.
A huge thank you to everyone who has supported this newsletter.
A huge thank you to everyone who engages with it.
A huge thank you to every reader.
I’m grateful for you all.
That’s all for 2023 friends! 👋
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