You Don’t Need to See the End

“What would you do if you knew you could not fail?”

I find this such a haunting question. It brings to the front of mind desires that, for one excuse or another, we had put off. None of us want to fail. None of us want to face the ridicule that accompanies defeat. We all want a happy ending to our story and, when possible, to be sure of it before we begin.

So we plan and procrastinate. We buy into the myth of perfect timing and wait for the stars to align. We think that once we can visualize success, we will find it. We assume that the clearer our destination, the more detailed our goal, the likelier we are to arrive.

Certainly, careful planning is important. Yet plans may change. Circumstances do change. You may hold wrong assumptions about the destination or the journey. You can have a perfect plan yet fail to execute. You can do everything right yet miss your window of opportunity. There’s no way to mitigate all risks.

A better approach is to be guided by the journey.

A painter stands before his blank canvas with an image in mind. He knows the layout, the color scheme, the emotions he wants to evoke. Yet does he have every line and shape worked out in his mind’s eye? Probably not. He adapts as needed and adds details as inspiration strikes. He puts on finishing touches as appropriate. He makes changes along the way, while still accomplishing what he had set out to do.

A new business owner offers a particular service. She positions herself to reach a certain target market. All of her solutions are geared toward this customer segment. Yet suppose they ask for something else instead. Or she finds greater success with a different customer base. Unless there’s a strong case otherwise, she may be prudent to pursue what the market needs, rather than chasing her original vision.

From my observation, we fear failure in part due to its apparent finality—that is, we view it as the end of the road. But when we allow ourselves to be guided by the journey, we come to understand that what we once perceived as failures are but setbacks, lessons learned, building blocks toward future success. We let go of the pressure to have a picture-perfect vision. We take small steps and gain new vantage points.

We risk failing and are glad to do so.

This is the second post in our series: Challenging Your Self-Limiting Assumptions.