Failure has been a word of the moment for the past few years: “too big to fail“, Jim Collin’s How the Mighty Fall, and – I can’t count the British Petroleum headlines on the subject. Today, Seth Godin’s blog talks about the “hierarchy of failure worth following“:
. . . frequency = good all the way to please-don’t!
FAIL OFTEN: Ideas that challenge the status quo. Proposals. Brainstorms. Concepts that open doors.
FAIL FREQUENTLY: Prototypes. Spreadsheets. Sample ads and copy.
FAIL OCCASIONALLY: Working mockups. Playtesting sessions. Board meetings.
FAIL RARELY: Interactions with small groups of actual users and customers.
FAIL NEVER: Keeping promises to your constituents.
I’m reflecting on how this fits into my understanding of organizational and personal failure. Finally, a quote from Michael Jordan:
I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.
As someone who often sees herself as a procrastinator, this article offers a new perspective. I have often defined my operating mode as procrastination. And, it can look this way from the outside perspective. You’ll often find me setting aside 3 or 4 hours each day to read and reflect, go on a walk, or drink a cup of tea or coffee while having a conversation with tribe members and friends. And yes, from the outside, it looks as though nothing is happening. But when the project deadline arrives, it is delivered on time and within budget.
Robert Biswas-Diener suggests that the opposite side of the procrastination coin is incubation. He defines incubation as “a clear sense of deadlines, confidence that the work would be complete on time, certainty that the work would be of superior quality, and the ability to subconsciously process important ideas while doing other — often recreational — activities.” Acknowledging incubating as a strength was a breath of fresh air. In sharing this insight with a friend, yes – in a conversation over coffee, she added that incubation can be a big part of creativity and innovation.
As I reflect further, this idea fits in with the reading that I’ve been dong on interpersonal neurobiology and how our brains most effectively process and manage information. Our brains need a balance of sleep, exercise, good nutrition along with time for stimulation and relaxation in order to function at peak levels. And whatever one calls it, setting aside time for incubation, curiosity, thought experiments, reflection, or exploration, will allow us all to function at our best.
I will continue to plan and set deadlines. I will set realistic expectations for myself. I will communicate with clients and co-workers. But I stop judging myself for taking time to incubate ideas and projects.
Two evenings ago I was enjoying an evening of conversation with friends when one courageously asked, “What really matters?” I ask myself this question every day, but usually only to myself. So, I appreciated the opportunity to reflect with friends. The overall theme that I took away from the conversation was that what matters is that we act from our core values, which for me include truthfulness, compassion, grace, abundance, and collaboration.
If you’re asking yourself the same question, check out Seth Godin’s compilation of thoughts from more than 70 thinkers. As Godin says, “Now, more than ever, we need a different way of thinking, a useful way to focus and the energy to turn the game around.”