The Greatest Source of Failure

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Can

The greatest source of failure is not a lack of talent, capital, or ideas. And it’s not politics or the lack of opportunities. The source is the bad-feeling, low-buzz, and usually habitual thoughts we have about the world and ourselves in the world. To succeed more, we need first to catch ourselves feeling bad. This […]

Complex Brew

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Success

Our businesses are complex brews of people, product, and process. Yet there are only four points of failure, ultimately, in any venture. They are 1) the lack of a clear, compelling, and commonly-comprehended goal, 2) the lack of a clear win for any and all involved, 3) poor systems for getting the right stuff done […]


Are We Allowed to Fail?

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Can, Strategy

We have heard that the dramatically successful organizations embrace rather than fear failure. They see failure as really quite a good thing. And so failing early, often, and forward has become part of the accepted wisdom of work. But what if we aren’t allowed to fail? What if failure brings embarrassment, loss of stature, or […]


How to See Failure

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Can, Do

We can see failure in two ways: as something we work (damn) hard to avoid or as no big deal. When it’s the former, we believe that any failure is personal. We see it as a judgment and as an omen of more bad things to come. We become tied tightly and the quality of […]


Fail Your Way to Success

Posted 1 CommentPosted in Do, What

Embracing failure is an oddly effective way to ultimately succeed. This does not mean just hoping everything goes well, winging it, ignoring it, or just bracing for impact. Embracing failure means adopting a system where we can test our assumptions (and we blindly make huge assumptions at work all the time) in a series of small, non-bet-the-farm experiments. […]

Embrace Failure to Win

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Can, Strategy, Success

Baked deeply into each of us is the habit of avoiding failure at any cost. But we fight failure to our detriment. Failure is valuable. Committing to something important is only possible because there is a chance of failure…it wouldn’t be important otherwise. Failure on the path to creating that something important is the only […]

2 steps forward

Seeing Improvement

Posted 1 CommentPosted in Do

There are two ways to visualize continuous improvement. One way is as a steady march. The other is a spiral. Which visualization represents the better way? The steady march (“We will get 1 percent better every day.”) seems more appealing: we can get there by setting course and making steady effort. The spiral looks less […]


Fail So You Can Win

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Can, Do

Despite admonishments to “fail early, often, and well,” we would much rather avoid failure altogether. We fear failure. Practical philosopher Peter Koestenbaum says that we see failure as a form of mini-death. No wonder we have elaborate defenses to avoid it. Yet fear of failure limits our success. We don’t leap. We don’t commit. We […]


Our Illusions of Failure

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Can

We thrive when we go within ourselves for direction, validation, insight, and answers. We fail–or at least get stuck on “meh”–when we reach outside ourselves for those things. (This usually means believing that the sources of those things are other people.) Why do we so often seek outside ourselves? Fear, of course. We fear what […]