#SH302: Resilience–Six Techniques for Bouncing Back

#SH302: Resilience–Six Techniques for Bouncing Back

Resilience

Being resilient, possessing the ability to withstand various challenges and then quickly bouncing back from setbacks and adversity, regardless of their magnitude, is something we all desire to have in our leadership toolbelt. Life is a maze of new ground to traverse, and if we are not careful, we can quickly lose perspective, dwell on a mistake, or become overwhelmed with doubt and fear. We all want to be resilient, persevere, and endure the shots. Despite circumstance, we want to stay laser focused on our values and purpose. Fortunately, it is possible to have the capacity to be resilient. There are tons of examples throughout human history, and we can use those examples to create our own techniques for bouncing back when things get tough. Although we offer a formula for helping you learn the needed skills, one thing that remains pivotal in our own understanding of resilience is that some of the most talented people, both living and dead, have suffered tremendously. There are stories of terror and defeat and yet so many leaders still find a way to move forward. As an example, Lincoln is heralded for his unwavering courage and steadfastness in one of the darkest periods of the United States. We often look to him with inspiration and admiration. Rarely discussed, though, is the fact that,

During a bleak winter in 1840, thirty-two-year-old Abraham Lincoln fell into a depression so profound that his friends feared he might kill himself…Most troubling to Lincoln was the realization that his reputation had been compromised. (Goodwin, 2018)

After Lincoln had promised a better economy for Illinois, the state experienced a devastating recession and much of the community infrastructure that he guaranteed fell through with Lincoln shouldering much of the blame. As time passed, and with the help of key people, Lincoln rebuilt himself, started a law firm with a partner and soon thereafter married. The incredible lesson we learn from this story is that even in the darkest times we can survive and position ourselves to make the impact our communities need and deserve. Lincoln, and many others, show us that resilience is primarily a product of our ability to resist our own faults and fear becoming our personal prison.

The truth is that we may not face the grim reality that Lincoln encountered, but as leaders we are constantly subjected to pressures, conflict, and resistance that can become a heavy burden that can negatively impact our performance. In the profound book, Flow, by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (Me-high-Cheek-sent-me-high), the primary message about resilience is clear: “of all the virtues we can learn, no trait is more useful, more essential for survival, and more likely to improve the quality of life than the ability to transform adversity into an enjoyable challenge” (2008). To offer some insight into how to develop the qualities necessary to enhance this ability, we offer six techniques housed within the acronym R.E.S.I.S.T. to serve as a mnemonic to call upon in times of need. The goal is to resist falling into states-of-mind and negative behaviors that are unproductive and potentially damaging to ourselves, our careers, and the people around us. These tools are gleaned from various sources and incredible experts on the topic, such as Martin Seligman from the University of Pennsylvania’s Positive Psychology Center. Learning to find your focus, gain perspective, and remain or quickly re-enter a resourceful state is what we are trying to achieve at all times, especially when we hit a period of interference with our goal attainment.

RESIST

Regulate your self-talk by using positive and forgiving language.

In Jon Gordon’s The Positive Dog (2012), he discusses the notion that we should talk to ourselves in a positive manner versus listening to our negative self-babble. The difference is profound. We can either choose the words we use when we address ourselves or passively listen to whatever comes to mind when we make a mistake. We have two dogs gnawing away at our souls, a positive dog and a negative dog. You need to choose which one to feed (Gordon, 2012).

Challenge: Next time you make a mistake and you find yourself kicking yourself, take a quiet moment to: 1. Identify the error and its “real” impact, 2. Expose how or why you made the mistake, and then 3. Decide what to do differently in the future. Write all three down on a piece of paper, then crumple it up and throw it away. Tweet #MasteredMyMistake @TSH302 to let us know that you used this technique.

Exercise discipline over the things you can control and let go of the things you can’t.

International bestselling mental strength author, Amy Morin reminds us that “you can’t force your spouse to change, you can’t prevent a storm from happening, and you can’t control how other people feel…sometimes all we can control is our effort and attitude” (Morin, 2017). That’s actually good news, especially for control freaks who often try to control everything but find themselves unable to control anything. Resilience, especially in the worst of times, is often defined by how a leader responds in terms of their work ethic and/or their positive outlook. When times get rough, leader often try to control more, micromanage the situation, or frustrate themselves with what everyone else is doing, thinking, and feeling. Resist the urge, and let it go.

Challenge: When we feel out-of-control, we must be reminded that our best point of control is own effort or attitude. We must learn to let everything else go. Next time you find yourself trying to control a situation when you can’t or worrying about something incessantly that is out of your control, take a deep breath: 1. Realize what you are trying to control, 2. Note that it is not helpful, and then 3. Identify the space where your effort and attitude will mean the most. Write all three down on a piece of paper, then crumple it up and throw it away. Tweet #ILetItGo @TSH302 to let us know that you used this technique.

See potential in every situation to make a positive impact.

“In the face of uncertainty, people who conform pull away to a safe place to protect themselves. Adaptable leaders who make leadershifts lean into uncertainty and deal with it head on” (Maxwell, 2019). The biggest difference between leaders who accept the status quo versus those who push forward for positive impact is in the ability to see potential even when faced with fear and uncertainty.

Challenge: Work hard to see the potential positive outcomes versus the negative repercussions in any situation. Next time you are faced with an unpredictable or particularly worrisome scenario: 1. Don’t retreat no matter how strong the urge may feel, 2. Look for all potential outcomes and silver linings, and then 3. Pick the most positive impact and work toward that as the goal. Write all three down on a piece of paper, then crumple it up and throw it away. Tweet #PotentialPositiveImpact @TSH302 to let us know that you used this technique.

Interpret challenges with a measured perspective and a belief that the situation can be improved.

“If we want to be able to select the reality that will lead to greater productivity, engagement, and revenue growth, we first need to recognize that we have control over how we choose to interpret the objective facts in our external world” (Achor, 2013). Using a measured perspective that any situation can be improved means shutting out the thoughts and preconceived notions that you have about any scenario before entering into it. Achor (2013) tells readers to battle their perspective by pursuing the most valuable reality, which means that we must recognize alternatives. Realizing that there are more vantage points than the first one that comes to mind is the first step to measuring multiple perspectives and choosing the best option.

Challenge: Let go of your predetermined beliefs about what the world should look like (Achor, 2013). Next time you feel yourself interpreting a challenge in one way: 1. Realize that your first perspective might not be the only reality, 2. Conjure up as many alternative perspectives as possible, and then 3. Pick one that best matches an improved future. Write all three down on a piece of paper, then crumple it up and throw it away. Tweet #MultiplePerspectives @TSH302 to let us know that you used this technique.

Solidify your core values and key principles.

“High-performing, values-aligned teams and companies embrace the promises they make to each other and to customers” (Edmonds, 2014). By solidifying your core values and key principles, you can hold yourself and others to the behaviors that are associated with the actions that you need to take to move forward. We can often become paralyzed by the ambiguity of day-to-day operations. We resist the emptiness of the mundane by having solid principles by which to live.

Challenge: A huge step in resisting the negativity that holds us back when we need to be resilient is in a reconfirmation of our core values. Next time you feel like your work or life is not making sense: 1. Reflect on the thing that seems to be distracting your work, 2. Go back to your core value statements or principles and highlight what matters most right now (write them out if you don’t have them already have them), and then 3. Identify a key next step and move forward based on your passion and purpose. Write all three down on a piece of paper, then crumple it up and throw it away. Tweet #PassionateLeadership @TSH302 to let us know that you used this technique.

Take decisive action with purpose and clarity.

“Strategic decisiveness is one of the most vital success attributes for leaders in every position and every industry, but few leaders understand where it comes from or how to find more of it” (Tasler, 2013). The best way to make a solid decision is to go back to your purpose and clarify your next set of critical action steps. In times of doubt, leaders can easily get stalled and find fault in every decision they might think to make. The best course of action as a resilient leader is to take action and move forward.

Challenge: Resist the desire to back off or back down. When we doubt ourselves, we can be left with inaction. Instead take massive action. Next time you feel yourself questioning what to do: 1. Identify the decision that needs to take place, 2. Weigh your options with a clear list of pros and cons, and then 3. Pick the action that best aligns with your purpose and do it. Write all three down on a piece of paper, then crumple it up and throw it away. Tweet #MassiveAction @TSH302 to let us know that you used this technique.

Learning to resist is a process that takes time. Like learning to meditate or practicing any other process in furthering your mental acuity, it takes preparation, training, and tons of hard work. But resilient leaders know how to bounce back from even the most difficult circumstances in life and at work. The key is in using these six qualities to enable yourself to push past whatever is in the way of reaching your goals. We hope to hear from you regarding our model for R.E.S.I.S.T. Next time you feel the need to be resilient, use this model to bounce back with the best of them.

Let us know what you think of this #SH302 post with a like, a follow, or a comment. Find us on Twitter, YouTube, iTunes, Facebook, & SoundCould. And if you want one simple model for leading better and growing faster per month, follow this blog by entering your email at the top right of the screen.

TheSchoolHouse302 is about getting to simple by maximizing effective research-based strategies that empower individuals to lead better and grow faster.

Joe & T.J.

References

Achor, S. (2013). Before happiness: The 5 hidden keys to achieving success, spreading happiness, and sustaining positive change. New York: Random House, Inc.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2008). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. New York: Harper Row.

Edmonds, S.C. (2014). The culture engine. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Goodwin, D.K. (2018). Leadership in turbulent times. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Gordon, J. (2012). The positive dog: A story about the power of positivity. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Maxwell, J. (2019). Leader shift: 11 essential changes every leader must embrace. HarperCollins.

Morin, A. (2017, May, 13). 6 Ways to stop stressing about things you can’t control. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/amymorin/2017/05/13/6-ways-to-stop-stressing-about-things-you-cant-control/#4497024130db

Tasler, N. (2013). Just make a decision already. Harvard Business Review.

#5thSunday: Year-End Reflection Infographic–R.E.F.L.E.C.T.

#5thSunday: Year-End Reflection Infographic–R.E.F.L.E.C.T.

Every month at TheSchoolHouse302, you get a blog post with a leadership development model, a podcast with a leading expert, a “read this” with three book selections, and a review and reflection tool–all on a particular topic of leadership to help you lead better and grow faster. Posts are always blasted out on Sundays so that leaders can think and prepare for the week ahead. In months when we have 5 Sundays, we also provide an infographic to help visualize and solidify the concept. This month, as we end our year, we want to R.E.F.L.E.C.T. on several powerful concepts to propel our success into the future of 2019. We hope you enjoy and Happy New Year. R.E.F.L.E.C.T._Infographic As always, please like, follow, and comment. If you have topics of interest, guests you want us to interview, or books that we should read and recommend, please let us know that as well. Joe & T.J.
#review&reflect: Learning to Win from Failure

#review&reflect: Learning to Win from Failure

Failure This is TheSchoolHouse302 monthly #review&reflect, wrapping up our focus on how Great Leaders Win from Failure. Skills I need…

The only way to to grow and achieve great things is to take risks, which at times is met with failure. The question is, how well do you plan your steps forward to ensure you can bounce back from setbacks and failed attempts?

Review: This month we focused on how successful people endure major setbacks, both personally and professionally, as life presents a series of challenges that can crush some of our greatest goals and desires. Our message is that you should learn from failure, and more importantly, learn how to mitigate risks through key steps. Our three-part model is designed to help you uncover how to NOT fail by taking calculated risks in life and business. We introduce the three Fs of failure that you don’t want to have on your leadership report card.

F#1: Failure to Launch–you can’t fail, if you don’t try.

The harsh reality is that inaction crushes any chance of success. Too often we are paralyzed by fear and uncertainty. Don’t become burdened by your goals but rather simply gain clarity by breaking down the goal into manageable steps and then take the first one. Once you take the first step, you won’t be disappointed. Don’t let another day go by.

F#2: Fear of Not Making a Massive Contribution–small steps lead to long treks.

We need to be sure that we use the right yardstick to measure what we are looking to accomplish and detail the incremental steps along the way that reinforce that we are making progress. It’s common for our goals to be so lofty that when massive change or when intense contribution are not immediate and apparent outcomes, we lose track of the fact that small steps are the mile markers that indicate that we are moving forward.

F#3: Fixating on the Wrong Measures–avoid thinking about the product, and focus on the process.

Setting goals and having clear targets are keys to success because if you don’t know where you are going, you have no chance of getting there. However, we tend to overlook the daily inputs, tasks, and behaviors that need to be done throughout the journey that are necessary to finding ultimate success. Essentially, the day-to-day activities that will lead to accomplishments are what should be our cherished moments and not the mere accomplishment itself.

The model is straightforward and designed to help leaders learn how to not fail but to take calculated risks in life and business, knowing that failure is an option. Avoid earning yourself these three Fs on your report card of success and you’ll fail forward with the greatest leaders of all time.

Learning from Failure

Reflect: Each aspect of the model is critical for overall success and maximum effectiveness. While reviewing and considering each, determine which one you need to focus on to take calculated risks to achieve new heights. For example, you may start many new things without really taking the time to lay out what is truly required to achieve your goals. Each part of the model is designed to prevent you from making critical mistakes that often lead to failure. The idea is that you decide on what you really want to accomplish and have clarity on how. We heard from Rand Fishkin on the importance of perspective and how we have certain ideas about business and success that are misleading and misguided. His thoughts on failure, and really on figuring out what you want to achieve, are powerful so don’t miss his One Thing Series leadership podcast interview. He walks us through his own growth process as a leader and as a entrepreneur. His wisdom is critical in advising listeners that you should not be fixated on the wrong measures, using the wrong determinants of success. He also reminds us that we are not perfect and that we need to learn to forgive ourselves so that we can thrive in a self-reflective state where it is okay to takes risks.

As a leader, are you willing to take the initial steps to lead yourself and your organization to greater achievement? What fears do you need to overcome?

How do I learn those skills…

What should I read to continually learn and grow if I want to win from failure and learn to take calculated risks?

Review: In our #readthisseries we featured the work of authors who embody what it means to learn from failure and grow to be an effective leader:

Lost and Founder: A Painfully Honest Field Guide to the Startup World by Rand Fishkin

Fearless at Work: Timeless Teachings for Awakening Confidence, Resilience, and Creativity in the Face of Life’s Demands by Michael Carroll

Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes Into Stepping Stones for Success by John Maxwell

You can’t miss our #readthisseries on keeping failure in perspective and ultimately learning from mistakes to move forward in life and work. Watch it again here.

Reflect: Do I have a firm grasp on what my organization needs to accomplish? Do I have clarity around the steps we need to take to achieve our goals? How well are we prepared to handle setbacks? Of the three parts of the model, which one do I need to start doing differently today?

Great leaders understand the power of thinking big and moving forward in calculated ways. They know that in order to reach new heights, achieve great things, and accomplish major goals, there are beacons–clarity and purpose– to guide and steer the ship. They are also crystal clear on the potential challenges, setbacks, and possible failures that loom. This month, reflect on how well you and your organization are setup to take calculated risks to achieve your goals. Based on the 3-part model, and using a 5-point scale, 1 being ineffective and 5 being highly effective, rate yourself and your team:

Failure_Assessment

Who should I follow…

What does an expert have to say about learning to win from failures as a leader?

Review: For our #onethingseries, we interviewed Rand Fishkin, founder of SparkToro, previously co-founder of Moz and Inbound.org.

Throughout the interview, Rand emphasized how failure is not the end of an idea and challenged many of our preconceived ideas around American business culture. He stressed the need for diversity in people, thinking, and ideas to help us see multiple perspectives to lead better and grow faster. He emphasized the importance of growing and how “you learn more when you’re uncomfortable than when you’re comfortable.”  His thoughts on failure and his approach to life emerged throughout the interview as he talked about forgiveness.

Reflect: Rand reminds us that life is how we perceive it and diversity helps us gain greater perspective so that we can experience all of the life’s rewards and challenges. The objective is in looking at life through the right lens.

Do you have a group of people who you can rely on to give you honest, challenging, and different perspectives?

The definition of leadership is influence, and by learning how to mitigate risks and learn from failure, you can find success, which improves your ability to influence others. By expanding your influence, you can be helpful to more people, and that’s one of the most important characteristics of any great leader–the desire to help others. That’s our #review&reflect for Winning from Failure. Take a look back to take a step forward. TheSchoolHouse302 is about getting to simple and maximizing effective research-based strategies that empower individuals to lead better and grow faster. Please let us know how our leadership posts are working for you, what you are reading to improve yourself, and your thoughts on leadership and growth here on our blog and Twitter. Follow our #onethingseries podcast on iTunes and our #readthisseries on YouTube. Joe & T.J.  
#readthisseries: Learn to Win from Failure–3 Books You Need to Read as a Leader

#readthisseries: Learn to Win from Failure–3 Books You Need to Read as a Leader

#readthisseries

Don’t miss this vblog on books you need to read to lead better and grow faster. We recommend three titles that are must-reads on the topic of learning to win from failure, mitigating risk, and overcoming fear. You can find our catalog of great leadership books at theschoolhouse302.com — click on #readthisseries.

Fishkin, R. (2018). Lost and Founder: A Painfully Honest Field Guide to the Startup World. New York: Penguin.

Carroll, M. (1999). Fearless at Work: Timeless Teachings for Awakening Confidence, Resilience, and Creativity in the Face of Life’s Demands. Boston: Shambhala Publications. 

Maxwell, J. (2007). Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes Into Stepping Stones for Success Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc. 

As always, please like, follow, and comment. If you have books that we should read and recommend, please let us know that as well.

Joe & T.J.

#onethingseries: Learning to Win from Failure w/ Rand Fishkin, @randfish

#onethingseries: Learning to Win from Failure w/ Rand Fishkin, @randfish

Rand Fishkin

Don’t miss this leadership interview with Rand Fishkin, @randfish. Rand is the founder of SparkToro and was previously cofounder of Moz and Inbound.org. He’s dedicated his professional life to helping people do better marketing through the Whiteboard Friday video series, his blog, and his book, Lost and Founder: A Painfully Honest Field Guide to the Startup World. When Rand’s not working, he’s most likely to be in the company of his partner in marriage and (mostly petty) crime, author Geraldine DeRuiter. He did also say that if you feed him pasta or a decent whisky, he’ll give you the cheat code to being ranked #1 on Google. His interview with TheSchoolHouse302 was insightful, check it out below.

  • Listen to what Rand says about failure not being the end of an idea. He challenges many commonly held beliefs about American business culture and stresses the importance of diversity.
  • He told us to follow @DHH for inspiration as an entrepreneur, Dharmesh Shah, co-founder of HubStop, and Courtland Allen. Listen to why he recommends these leaders.
  • Rand talked about self-awareness and grounding ourselves in our WHY, asking daily questions about how we feel and if we’re happy.
  • He plans to be more philanthropic with social efforts. Stay tuned for more from Rand Fishkin…for sure.  
  • He told us that we have to diversify who we’re learning from and surround ourselves with people from different backgrounds and experiences. “You learn more when you’re uncomfortable than when you’re comfortable.”
  • And, you have to hear what he says about forgiveness and forgiving yourself.

Rand ’s interview is filled with practical advice for leaders and really connects with our purpose of developing leaders by getting to simple. Be sure to get your copy of Lost and Founder: A Painfully Honest Field Guide to the Startup World, and let us know what you think.

Please follow, like, and comment. Use #onethingseries and #SH302 so that we can find you.

Joe & T.J.

#SH302: Great Leaders Win from Failure–Don’t Earn Any of These Three Fs on Your Success Report Card

#SH302: Great Leaders Win from Failure–Don’t Earn Any of These Three Fs on Your Success Report Card

Learning from Failure

We hear of incredible stories of accomplishment amid severe hardship and constant rejection. Whether we consider Abraham Lincoln’s early failures in politics and business, and revere his perseverance at becoming one of our greatest presidents. Or using a more contemporary example, we look to Stephen King, a great American author, who in pursuit of his dream found rejection with his first novel, Carrie, being dismissed by publishers over 30 times (Demers, 2015). We know that many successful people endure major setbacks, both personally and professionally, as life itself presents a series of challenges that crush some of our greatest desires and goals. Whether in politics, business, writing, sports, or any aspect of life, failure is natural, trials occur, and misfortune becomes almost commonplace. How we view and perceive our failure determines whether the experience is beneficial and continues to move us toward our goals…or not. And as failure has somehow emerged as a prerequisite for leaders, the notion that great leaders have to fail first to be able to succeed, we want to address this concept of failing in order to achieve greatness in two ways:

  1. It’s not a farce that leaders often have countless failed attempts before making it big, earning them fame or fortune or some other glory. Not all leaders have to fail to be successful, but it is true that persistence is a key leadership attribute, and those who fail and “try, try again” are the ones who are most likely to succeed. We think this is mostly due to the grit that is defined as pushing forward after a failure (Duckworth, 2016) than it is due to the nature of needing to fail.
  2. Failure comes in many forms. The simple definition of failure is usually something along the lines of “a lack of success.” But, this lack of success isn’t always due to a failed attempt, but rather an omission of a critical action necessary for success. In other words, failing to lead is mostly something that happens when we fail to take action because we fear that our actions won’t lead to our desired outcomes, and we focus on the product of our efforts and the lack of clear results that we see along the way.

Great leaders know that to win, risk is almost always necessary. And although there seems to be a glorification of risk-takers as leaders in our society, most great leaders know that when they’re venturing into uncharted waters, the best thing to do is to mitigate risk. So two concepts emerge around winning from failure. The first is that failure is necessary, but we contend that failure is typically a result of inaction, fear that our goals won’t be achieved, and a lack of clarity around what we truly desire. The second is that leaders are risk taking daredevils, and with that we note that leaders certainly take risks but never blindly. For these two reasons, we have a model, not for how to fail and succeed, but rather how to not fail to take calculated risks in life and business. Avoid earning yourself these three Fs on your report card of success and you’ll fail forward with the greatest leaders of all time.

F#1: Failure to Launch–you can’t fail, if you don’t try.

“I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.”  ~ Michael Jordan

The biggest failure of them all is not even giving yourself the opportunity to fail in the first place. The leaders who failed before they succeed all had one thing in common–the didn’t fail to try. The problem is that people tend to make 100 excuses as to why it’s not possible to move forward versus 1 excuse to take action immediately.

The reality is that we want things to be just right before taking the first step. Although planning and preparing are critical aspects of any successful endeavor, the conditions for launching a project are never perfect. Too often, leaders are in pursuit of perfection when perfection can be the enemy of making any progress at all. This is where we bring back the concept of risk-taking. Failure to launch a project is either a symptom of not enough planning or too much. If you’re in the preparation stage, taking time to mitigate risk, it’s time to make a move. Ron Ashkenas, author of Simply Effective, says that executives can get caught up in research before taking action, but we need to shift that thinking to the notion that “action can occur parallel to research” (2011). Your project likely has many steps, but launching it only takes the first one.

Practical Example: Consider Jan. Jan was unhappy in her current job, deep down she always wanted to be a teacher and her role as business analyst was not satisfying. In fact, it was impacting her overall well-being. But, with a mortgage, three kids, and a husband who traveled three days a week, she questioned whether teaching was worth pursuing. She spent a lot of time thinking about it, planning for it, and researching the possibility, but daunted by the thought, she prevented herself from taking action. Ultimately, Jan decided not to suppress her desire, so she reached out to a local university and learned exactly what it would take to become a teacher. What Jan didn’t know until she fully planned and prepared to go after her goal is that because she was interested in teaching mathematics there were alternative paths to becoming certified. This first step of just determining the requirements gave her a clearer picture of the cost, the time commitment, and the different possibilities involved. Suddenly, Jan’s desire to teach was actually feasible because of the clarity she gained from that simply phone call. Jan went from thinking and hoping about a new career to taking the first step toward accomplishing it.

Technical Tip: Define what the logical first step is, something simple, and then take it. It’s likely a phone call, setting up a website, filling out an application, or making an appointment. Don’t let another day go by.

F#2: Fear of Not Making a Massive Contribution–small steps lead to long treks.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” ~ Laozi

One of the major issues with pursuing our goals is that we live in a hero’s culture. We hear about amazing accomplishments and compare them to our own realities and the goals we have. We need to be sure that we use the right yardstick to measure what we are looking to accomplish and detail the incremental steps along the way that reinforce that we are making progress. Too often, our goals are so lofty that when massive change or intense contribution is not an immediate outcome, we lose track of the fact that small steps are the mile markers that indicate that we are moving forward. Somehow, our brains tend to associate small wins with a lack of achievement when that’s not an accurate picture. We see that a friend has 800 followers on Twitter, and it prevents us from even setting up an account. What would 10 followers say about me and my lack of initiative? But that fear prevents the 10 followers and the steps it takes to get to 800 and then 8,000.

This fear that paralyzes us, because our goals seem too audacious while our contributions appear minimal, doesn’t recognize that when big goals are broken down they represent a series of small practical steps. Anyone with a massive accomplishment will tell you that it took guts and no guarantees; it takes the first step and every step thereafter to realize any big win. Art Markman, author of Smart Thinking, tells HBR readers that “the people who do manage to accomplish their long-term goals create regular space to make progress on them” (2016). The idea is to take the first step toward a goal and then each step thereafter. Massive contributions are almost always an accumulation of smaller ones.

Practical Example: Let’s consider Jan, again. In taking the first step to realize her goal in becoming a teacher, she launched her project by learning that she doesn’t need to go back to school before becoming a teacher. She can apply for an alternative route. Because she already has a degree in accounting and mathematics, she can use that to pursue a teaching certificate. Even though it took her a long time to get started, the new career path is quite the opposite in terms of the approach she needs to take versus what she originally deemed the excuse. She thought she would need to getting a teaching degree to be able to teach, but because of her math background, she actually needs a teaching job to be able to get the credential. Little did she know that math teachers are in seriously high demand, and after applying at a local technical high school, she gave notice to her analyst position, and started in the new teacher induction program in August. A series of small steps, once considered too daunting to take, became easier and easier for Jan as she took each one at a time. She learned to create space in day to manage the progress, and she recognized that each small step added up to achieving her big goal. In June she considered teaching to be an impossible feat, and now in August she’s on staff in her dream job.

Technical Tip: New projects, initiatives, and goals can seem intimidating, but that’s because they have a number of moving parts. After identifying and taking the first step, unpack the rest by making a list of steps and action items that need to be taken. Prioritize them and get started on the process of completing them one-by-one, and make space daily and weekly for each. Incremental achievement is the only antidote to overcoming the fear that your accomplishments won’t be grand enough.

F#3: Fixating on the Wrong Measures–avoid thinking about the product, and focus on the process.

“In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

Learn to measure success by celebrating the short-term wins rather than waiting for the long-range outcomes. Setting goals and having clear targets is a key to success because if you don’t know where you are going, you have no chance of getting there. However, we tend to overlook the daily inputs, tasks, and behaviors that need to be done throughout the journey that are necessary to be successful. Essentially, the day-to-day activities that will lead to accomplishment. Effective leaders focus not only on the long-term goals and the overall destination, but they also identify key mile-markers that indicate accomplishment and success along the way.

One by-product of identifying clear short-term measures while working toward a goal is in recognizing the clarity they bring during the process. Great leaders know how to anticipate potential problems and accurately measure risk, but they also know when the process is demonstrating new developments to celebrate incremental successes. Everything we do is riddled with complications and setbacks, but there are also always key indicators that we are making headway. The key is framing an understanding around each hurdle so that each minor accomplishment is a short-term win toward success, which is a critical element to not losing site that we’re realizing breakthroughs. In his fable about reaching goals, Ken Blanchard’s composite character Andy reminds readers that leaders have to cheer the work being done not just the product or outcome of the work (1997). Knowing that there are measures of success that come long before the goal is reached allows for failure to be an option along the way to our ultimate success, and it motivates us to keep on pushing forward.

Practical Example: Let’s take one last look at Jan. She gained clarity that her goal can actually be a reality and that she can fulfill her lifelong dream of becoming a teacher. Even though the requirements to becoming certified are easier than she thought, there are realities that she needs to be pragmatic about. Jan has a lot on her plate and since her husband travels a great deal, many of the household demands fall on her. Whether it is as simple as grocery shopping or taking the kids to their activities, they all require time and will add to the level of strain in doing a new job and going back to school at night. The key for Jan is that she stays realistic with all the incremental steps she previously identified. She has to recognize that there will be hurdles and setbacks, but she also needs to learn to celebrate the smallest of wins and remind herself of the overall goal whenever she experiences failure. One bad day at school doesn’t mean she’s not a good teacher just like one alternative routes course completed doesn’t mean she’s certified. She has to overcome the mistakes and celebrate the minor markers of success during the process of realizing her dreams.

Technical Tip: Become passionate about the process, not obsessed about outcomes.  Learn to celebrate yourself and others along the journey. Too often we hear about people achieving so much and still being unsatisfied. When we set goals and look to achieve more, we are seeking something we hope pays off in some way. Whether it is self-satisfaction, a better lifestyle for your family, or making a positive contribution to your community, the key is to enjoy the process and gain knowledge and understanding from the experiences.

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Avoiding the three Fs of failure is what defines and separates those who learn from life as a process, with repeated setbacks and failures, and those who don’t even take the first step to reaching their dreams. Our goal at TheSchoolHouse302 is to help you gain clarity around what you truly want to achieve and offer simple, yet effective, strategies for you to tackle the complexities of life. If you want more support with learning how to fail forward for yourself or the leaders in your organization, don’t hesitate to contact us, we can help.

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TheSchoolHouse302 is about getting to simple by maximizing effective research-based strategies that empower individuals to lead better and grow faster.

Joe & T.J.

References

Ashkenas, R. (2011). The problem with perfection. Harvard Business Review.

Blanchard, K. (1997). Gung ho! Turn on the people in any organization. New York: Ode to Joy Limited.

DeMers, J. (2015, July 07). Inspirational Lessons From the Failures of 4 Great Leaders. Retrieved from https://www.inc.com/jayson-demers/inspirational-lessons-from-the-failures-of-4-great-leaders.html

Duckworth, A. (2016). Grit: The power of passion and perseverance. New York: Scribner.

Markman, A. (2016). When you should worry about failure, and when you shouldn’t. Harvard Business Review.

Thiel, P. (2014). Zero to one: Notes on startups, or how to build the future. New York: Random House, LLC.