I recently attended the National Speakers Association annual conference, “Influence”. It was fantastic! I got to present on the main stage, which is always fun. While I was there, I had a conversation with a good friend of mine. “You know, I just wish I knew what your secret was, how is it that you accomplish so much? You’ve got new books coming out, your business is growing. What is your secret?” she asked me. As I considered her question, I realized it really came down to one key concept: FAILING versus FLAILING.
I’ve been working around is the concept quite a bit lately. Consider yourself, your organization, your company. Are you failing or are you flailing?
Failure has a bad reputation. People do not like to fail. People have a fear of failing. Yet it is such a part of our society and our world and what we experience. It is how we grow and how we learn. We must rewrite the way we look at failing. Trust me, my list of failures is much longer than my list of successes. All my failures have given me incredibly powerful lessons. If you are failing, it means you are at least doing something, you’re trying something, you’re putting something out there. And we need to step away from being vulnerable about that.
The list of people who have failed and gone on to be wildly successful is very large:
- Oprah, fired from her first job
- Spielberg, rejected twice by USC for the School of Cinematic Arts
- Edison was told he was too stupid to learn anything
- Disney was told he lacked imagination
One of my favorite failure stories that I like to keep in mind is Steven King. When I was young, I was able to do a workshop with Steven King. I grew up in Maine, so his books have always been a big part of my life. His book Carrie was rejected 30 times … 30 times. When we think about failing, we need to remind ourselves that it is a step in a process to get you where you’re going.
Let’s compare failing to flailing. What I am finding in working with my clients, whether it’s through consulting or training or coaching, is that many of them are not failing. They are not launching bad products, or not putting things out there that don’t work. They are flailing. I define flailing as “flustered inaction”. They are literally spinning themselves around in circles, without producing anything. And that is a very different state and a very different condition than failing. I would much rather see somebody fail than flail. When you’re flailing, it is inaction.
When a company or a person is flailing, it is because they have taken on way too much, spread themselves way too thin. We call this chasing the shiny object! They have all these goals and yet they are not achieving any of them. They are attacking them all at the same time and getting nowhere. So how do we move away from flailing?
Let’s apply some innovative project management techniques that increase agility:
Solution One: Micro-Bites
In the anthology You@Work, I presented the concept of micro-bites. Look at your goals, break those goals down into key pieces, and then continue breaking it down until you have small, easily achievable pieces. These small pieces are what I call micro-bites. Achieving a micro-bite success gives you a really nice endorphin push that excites you to accomplish even more.
Solution Two: Smaller Goals
Like the micro-bite concept, look at your goals. Are they large and grandiose? Go big or go home? Perhaps they are too big. For example, you have a goal to write a book. Instead of going for the book, start with a blog. The goal is one blog post per month. At the end of 12 months, you may have enough to put together a book. As you get into a routine, a schedule, writing the monthly blog posts, it becomes a habit.
Solution Three: Done is Better Than Perfect
This is a tough one for some people. I am not suggesting you create “crap” (for lack of a better term). I am suggesting that sometimes we put way too much time, energy, and resources into creating the perfect thing. Here is a thought: nothing in life is perfect. Can you get it to a point where it can be considered “done”? Oftentimes we see more of the flaws and imperfections in our outputs than others do.
Solution Four: Swarming
In agile project management, we leverage a technique called “swarming” or “mobbing”. In this technique, we put all of our resources one item, one task, one problem, versus having team members spreading out and working on individual responsibilities. Organizations and entrepreneurs tend to have multiple simultaneous projects running at the same time. Research has demonstrated that there is increased productivity, quality, and engagement when resources are applied to one initiative at a time. Consider doing projects sequentially rather than concurrently. Pick the highest priority and focus all efforts on that.
How Are You Feeling?
Consider yourself and your environment right now. How are you doing with things? Are you frustrated? Do you feel like you are not accomplishing what you want? Maybe you are getting down on yourself, maybe you’re beating yourself up for not being more successful. I would encourage you to look at your great big to-do list, where you want to go, what you want to accomplish, and your end-goal. What are the micro-bite pieces that will enable you to get there?
Rewrite Failure to Flailure
Are you failing or are you flailing? It is much better to fail than to flail. Let’s forget about failure, as this is where we can learn and grow. I am re-writing failure and calling it flailure, which is much more damaging. Flailure is when you just got all this stuff to do and you never get anything done.
It is better to fail than to flail.
If you or your organization would like more information on how to achieve your goals through innovative approaches, reach out to me! I am happy to help! https://www.belindagoodrich.com/contact
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