Tuesday, July 22, 2008

How to Succeed Failure

Most of the projects we set out to do end up as failures.

Today is the last day of the Self Expressions and Leadership Program I've been doing, and one of the most important skills I gained was not just to measure the results in my work, but to measure the results in all of the projects in my life, and to be able to look those results in the eye and call them what they are. Often, what they are is a failure, or at least a partial failure, when compared to the original intention of the project.

So my project to have the teens in my city create and perform a Broadway-style musical has now been distilled to the possibility of a once-a-week activity for 5 weeks in cooperation with the city. On the one hand, that's not any where near what I envisioned. On the other hand, it is something, and it's something that wouldn't have happened otherwise. Furthermore, I've gotten closer with a number of parents in the patrol, been able to help them out with some personal stuff in a number of instances, and several parents who hadn't participated began to participate. Also, as a side effect, some interesting things are happening for me in local politics.

The same thing is going on with almost all of the other projects in our course. A few happened as envisioned, but most of them turned out either smaller in scope or different than planned. All of them had similar side effects in the communities and for the leader of the project.

If you look at your life, you'll probably see similar results. You set out to have a great relationship with your kid, or a specific partner, or a particular job or salary, or start a startup. Most of the time, you didn't get exactly what you set out to get, when you set out to get it.

But you got something.

So then the question is, if you know you are going to fail, or get less than what you set out to get, how do you set out to your project in the first place?

It seems obvious to me that if you want to get what you want, you have to set out with a much, much bigger goal and a plan to reach that bigger goal. (It's not enough to set the goal, obviously, you need to start executing some plan.)

No comments: