Failing Fast Doesn’t Mean Giving Up

Failing fast is one of the most frequently used words in the modern knowledge based economy full of start-ups looking for the big hit. You read about how every entrepreneur needs to be able to pivot on the spot and come up with another idea if the first one doesn’t work. But how fast should you fail? Sometimes it even feels like failing is a badge of honor, but is failing really the only way to success? How should you understand it and transfer the lessons learned from failing fast into daily lives? And what happened to good old perseverance? Isn’t failing too fast, or giving up too early, limiting your chances of success?

Obviously there is a no easy formula to tell you when to give up and when to plough ahead. But there are questions you can ask yourself to make the right call. Let’s look at the whole decision making process.

Recognize failure in making

The key is to even recognize that something is not working. Sometimes it is easily measurable (for example revenue growth) but sometimes it is more subtle. The best way to recognize that things are not working out is to have a baseline plan you can compare to. Without a plan you cannot really say whether things are going well or not. The plan was to have one million in revenue at this time and we don’t even have a half of it. Failure in making.

Understand why

We know we have a problem and now the real question of “why”. Is it because our strategy is flawed, or the original plan was unrealistic, or the environment has changed, or other outside factors temporarily slowed us down, or we just didn’t execute well?

Most likely there is no obvious answer, otherwise life would be too easy. The best you can do is to eliminate various factors one by one leaving the “let’s give up and do something different” as the last option.

Tweak and persevere

If giving up is not the option then what is? Incremental tweaks (changes) and consistent focus on gathering feedback to see whether something works or not. This can be of course a tricky proposition for some situations. In other cases it can work nicely. For example, the industry standard when building websites, or do marketing is the so-called A/B testing. This allows you to change one variable (try a new idea) without changing the other aspects thus having feedback that really reflects just this one change and is not impacted too much by the overall environment.

This may not be a strategy applicable to your case but the thought behind is the same. If you change something and are looking for feedback make sure you are really measuring the impact of the change.

It is not only about your business, it is also about your career. Way too many people just give up too easily, have low patience, and leave their jobs before they had an opportunity to really succeed. At the same time just doing what you have always done hoping for a different outcome will be equally disastrous. The best strategy is to break down your job into different aspects and then tackle these one by one attempting small changes, recognizing small wins, improving your attitude and view of the world and eventually being really good at what you do while truly enjoying it. Read more in Ignore Your Dream… Do What You Are Good At.

This applies not just to your professional existence but to the rest of your life too. Imagine you are not happy with your life. What do you do? Chances are that not everything in your life is bad and if you attack one aspect of your life at a time you will eventually end up in a better place. Rather than saying “my life suck,” and give up. Or do something dramatic like leaving your life behind and moving to another country hoping for the best. Trust me, I’ve been there, it doesn’t work. Much better to change your life, one thing at a time, focus on the new and positive and before you know your whole life will be different. Mostly because your view of the world changed, but that is for another time.

Give second chances but timeframe them

Just be careful of the “one more chocolate and then I stop trap”. If you really believe strongly that the original approach is fine and it is just a matter of time before things turn around then so be it. I would argue that this decision should be based on real data and some external circumstances that irrefutably show that the reason for you not doing well today is gone. In that case let’s give it another shot but make it crystal clear to yourself and everyone involved what your expectation is. You need to be very specific and timeframe it: “We double down on what we do today and our expectation is that by the end of the year we will have 20% increase in sales.” When the end of the year comes and you haven’t reach your numbers there are no more excuses and you have to change! Under no circumstances should you say ”I see the trend, let’s give it another three months.” If you do that you get yourself trapped in a vicious cycle of excuses and postponing of what had to be done in the first place.


What does failing fast mean for you? Is it a strategy you would use? Or do you believe it is a disaster in making?

Originally posted at LinkedIn.

Not My Fault! It’s The Traffic…

You hear it over and over again. In fact, you might be using the tactic yourself without even realizing it. Blaming others or the environment for your inability to get things done, keep your promises and duties.

Let’s blame someone else

Have you ever worked with a colleague who would be constantly showing up ten minutes late for meetings with an excuse like “sorry I’m late, but there was a traffic jam”? As if this would explain everything and make it right. Well, yes, there was a traffic jam, so what? If there is one every day then it is just not relevant. If you would continue that line of reasoning you could come up with: “Sorry I’m late, but there was a traffic jam. Police should make sure there are no traffic jams. In fact, it is police fault that I’m late. Or even better others should be banned from using cars. That way I wouldn’t get stuck and came right on time.” Rather ridiculous, isn’t it? So why are we all saying it?

What are the things under your control?

One of the challenges you have to learn when managing others (and yourself) is the tendency of trying to look good and blame others for our mistakes. If you want to move things forward and want the person in question to grow and build strong sense of ownership you need to make sure this is not happening. Always bring the attention and focus of the person to things that are under his control.

Let’s say you come to your teammate with something you want him to solve and his response is “No problem. We will need IT to prepare the proposal and finance team will have to approve it.” These couple of words are full of red flags. At this point you just need to stop him and say “Yes, I see your point and I know that other people will have to be involved. What are the things that YOU will do? What is it you have under your control?” Even if there is a part that needs to be done by someone else there are always things you have under your control and that is where your focus needs to be.

The best way to increase satisfaction with your life is to learn to distinguish what are the things you can influence. Those you should focus on and constantly improve. This works also the other way around. Learn what in your life is out of your control, what you cannot influence and stop worrying about it. If you cannot change something then it is just a distraction that makes you less productive, unhappy and dissatisfied with your life.

There is no try

As the Grand Jedi Master Yoda, the oldest and most powerful known Jedi Master in the Star Wars universe said “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

Once you realize what you do have under control, and decide to do something about it, you need to make yourself believe that you will succeed. And since we shape our reality by the words we use you need to learn to set yourself for success. “I will try better next time,” is your archenemy. “This will never happen again,” gives you much more power to actually change your behavior as it means you have no doubt and are fully committed to succeed.

It’s not the traffic, it’s you…

And to get back to our example from the beginning and look at alternative scenario where you don’t try to blame the universe for being late but you take ownership of your life. Understand the natural consequences of this repeated behavior of tardiness (in the form of others having to wait for you or you not being informed about or part of important decisions). And ultimately ask yourself the obvious question: “What is under my control that I will do so this doesn’t happen again?”


Originally posted at LinkedIn.

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