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How Not To Fail At Anything – Ever


Millions of words have been written about how to come back after failure. It’s been said that failure is actually motivating. It stimulates more awareness, decisions and action than just about any other activity. Of course, so does being chased by ravenous lions.

Frankly, I’d rather avoid failure in the first place.

Fear of Failure

I don’t understand the notion that how we fail is as important as how we succeed. Let’s be 100% percent honest: No one hires us to fail. No one admires our ability to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off after we’ve wasted their time, money and opportunities. The key is to be positive.

“Always consider failure as a possibility but never consider it an option.”

T.L. Shackleford – Andy’s Grandfather

You may remember that the famous tightrope walker Karl Wallenda finally fell to his death decades after his career began. His widow explained that Karl slipped because he was so busy trying not to fall that “he forgot to walk the tightrope.”

Think about that. You can’t be successful if you’re paralyzed by fear of making a mistake. You can’t be creative if you’re afraid of falling.

I’m what you call a wild-eyed optimist. I expect the best in people. And, as a close friend one said, I’m “relentlessly cheerful.” Much of this attitude comes from not dwelling on failure. I’d rather spend my life not failing than trying to live with it. It all comes down to answering five key questions when you start a project.

How Not to Fail

1. How is success measured?

Metrics should measure performance against the desired results. What do you want people to do? What data and measurements will let you know if they’re doing it, and why? Those are your metrics.

2. Who are the people who control success?

These could be your customers, management, employees, the audience – anyone. They are the most important factors in the equation. You have to understand who they are, what they want and need, what they value and how they want you to deliver everything to them.

3. What do they have to understand, value and do to create success?

In short, these are your results and objectives. Remember, you have to think strategically to satisfy them. This ends up being very specific.

4. What do you have to do to create the results?

These are the planning, preparation, tactic, and actions you have to do to get the people you rely on for success to do whatever you want them to do.

5. How can we do it consistently?

Not part of the time or half way – do it consistently every time.

Does It Work?

Stop for a moment and think back to any failure you’ve had. Hopefully, you don’t have a long list. I bet that every one of them was caused by not doing one of these five things.

Even The Coca-Cola Company’s famous New Coke disaster was caused by not understanding what the people who controlled their success really wanted. In case you’ve forgotten, in 1985 the company actually stopped making world-famous Coca-Cola and replaced it with a new formula – New Coke.

There was enough backlash to get a whiplash! The Coca-Cola Company totally ignored the loyalty of their customers. They spend millions of dollars only to have such a revolt from their Coke drinkers that they switched back to the original formula in only 79 days. Look at the list above. Which ones did they ignore?

Natural Talent

It all comes back to you, what you do and how well you do it. In the movie “The Natural,” Roy Hobbs looks like the greatest baseball player in history. He was loaded with natural talent. But when he was just a boy his father told him,

“You’ve got a gift, Roy, but it’s not enough. You’ve got to develop yourself. If you rely too much on your own gift, then you’ll fail.”

According to Forbes Magazine, research shows that natural talent is irrelevant to success. Nobody is a success without:

• Knowledge

• Ability

• Willingness

If you don’t have all three, you might as well be playing video poker. You have to really work at the first two. You aren’t born knowing how to succeed; you have to learn how to do it, practice the skills and understanding, and be willing to do whatever it takes.

Start With Your Next Project

Most clients are lost because we try to please the people we work for on the individual parts instead of creating success for the entire project.

Never lose sight of what you and your organization are there to do. Focus on how success will be measured and the people who can make it happen. It doesn’t matter how wonderful the different parts are, if the people who control success don’t do what they are supposed to do.

Concentrate on the five questions and your results will be remembered long after the event, campaign, marketing, workshop, communications, speech, is over.

The Guarantee

Can I guarantee that you will never fail? No. But you can cut the odds, improve your attitude and spend more time celebrating success. Just focus, have a little fun – and do your best. After all:

“If you are doing your best, you don’t have time to worry about failure.”

H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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About the Author
Andy Johnston is a multi-faceted communication professional who has a comfortable way of working with people. Andy is an Emmy Award winning communicator known for his energy, humor, creativity and his unique ability to discover the key results that must be generated – and then to develop ingenious ways to engage and motivate audiences. He has broad experience in strategic planning, messaging, creative direction, marketing, and events. One of the things Andy says often is, “How can we make it better?”
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