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I once heard an interesting story about a varsity professor. I'm not completely sure if it's fact or fiction, but I've never forgotten the analogy. 

At the beginning of each year, the professor would split his students into two groups for a sideline project that he would do with them throughout the year. The objective: to design and make a lampshade. I'm assuming they were industrial design students. I just can't see a bunch of lawyers making lampshades. 

The first group was told they had the entire year in his class to design and build the ultimate lampshade. Just one version, but it had to be awesome! The second group had to build a lampshade too, but wait for it, they had to make one every single day. Ouch!  It didn't matter if it was perfect; it just needed to be a lampshade. At the end of the year, the two groups had to present their lampshades to the professor.

So the first group presented theirs. Their presentation consisted of a number of sketches and an unfinished lampshade. Eish! 

The professor asked them what happened. They said they had the ultimate lampshade in mind and they knew they had a year to make it. So each time they started to create one they'd change their minds and start again. Constantly finding a reason to improve, replan and start again. As a result, they got so hung up in planning that a completed execution never happened.

Plan, execute and learn

The second group presented their lampshade and it was awesome. It was simple, clever, constructed easily and innovative. It could be made in a day and with minimal training. 

The professor asked the second group how they had made such an incredibly simple lampshade. The students said they focused on making a lampshade every day. It was tough to start, as well as being stressful, but they finished one every day. The early versions were terrible, but as they sketched new ones and made them they constantly found smarter ways to make small improvements. 

The lesson here is a simple one. So often in business we want everything to be perfect because we are scared of failure. As a result, we plan and change, plan and change. Instead of planning, executing and learning from our mistakes. It's constant small improvements over time that make things awesome.

So to wrap things up I’m not saying don't plan, I'm saying know when you've done enough planning and then start executing. You'll learn a lot more from the outcome than you will from planning it to death. 

Remember these 5 lessons about failure when you’re scared to start that particular thing you’ve been planning for months:

1. It's seldom as bad as you imagined.
2. It allows you to learn from your mistakes.
3. It keeps you humble.
4. It stops you being a control freak.
5. It grows your capacity for taking risks.

 

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