What is failure?

You know the objective setting exercise that we do each time we start a project, when we enter a new role and so on? Are you setting benchmarks for success or drawing the line where you define your failures? I think too often, we are thinking more about how failure looks like more than how success looks to be. Or we have such a narrowly defined success that we classify most situations as failures.

I talked about it in the context of regrets before. Our imaginations are so rich that we can be so specific about our alternative lives we forget to live the life that we are given. We fail to enjoy our lives because we are too busy trying to enjoy the life that we think we should be living. It’s the same with our work, and how we want it to turn out – we are so specific about what success means that we think of everything else as failure.

What if we envision just failure – the specific way things fail that you can’t do anything about that is completely counter to what you are achieving. And then we say, that’s it, everything else is success; and that in all other scenarios, you’d be able to make good of it, and at least pick up something that will benefit you somehow.

Then you can start defining where you and your team wants to get to – that range of outcomes where you can be a bit more complacent (isn’t that what you’ve been really after, rather than just what people term ‘success’), and that range of outcomes that would mean there’s more work plans to develop, more reporting and accountability to do. Remember, failure is restricted to that one case you imagined. Everything else is just… life.