I always end the year by writing about my accomplishments, failure, regrets, and resolutions. I love this time of year because the calendar naturally moves me to reflect and take action. This post is all about 2018 failure.
I’ve participated in this ritual in some way since 2004, and I generally write about failure in one of three ways.
1. Sometimes it’s chronological and honest.
2. There are times when it’s vague and summarized.
3. More often than not, I wrap up failure in a lesson that’s larger than failure.
You’ll get all of that in 2018.
However, before I write anything, a word: society does its citizens a disservice when it fetishizes failure. While failure is an essential tool for growth, there are smarter and more effective ways to receive an education. Failure as an instrument of teaching — and a vehicle for maturation — is stupid and counterproductive. Everybody fails, but let’s get to the successful part sooner.
I think my biggest failure is that I didn’t do more premortems throughout the year. If you remember, I built a technology platform to help people beat failure called GlitchPath based on the idea of the premortem, but I didn’t use it myself. I went headfirst into projects and relationships with glitches and didn’t ask myself, “How am I about to fail?”
You don’t need technology to minimize failure. You need a minute. A pause. Some self-reflection. The ability to delay gratification long enough to remember how things failed in the past and how you can avoid frustration and disappointment by changing your behaviors in the immediate future.
And even if you take a moment to plan for failure, you might still fail. That’s how life works.
But here’s what I did in 2018: I mostly ignored warning signs. If I paid attention at all, I wanted to transform my future magically and was willing to endure failure as a rite of passage to win an emotional lottery. It was only in the fourth quarter when I started to review my year that I woke up and realized it was time to get to work. I was failing pretty hard, and no amount of wishful thinking could change the facts on the ground.
So, I put pen to paper and wrote down some goals. I’ve got four buckets: health, finance, career, relationships. Then I did a premortem and asked myself, “How am I going to fail?”
Big goals have significant risks. I’ll probably fail to achieve some of my goals for 2019, just like I missed the mark on my life in 2018. But at least I’m back to embracing the premortem, a tool to help me see through the fog and recognize the landscape before me.
Want to beat failure? Try the premortem. I hope it helps you like it continues to assist me. And don’t be too hard on yourself if you fail in 2019. Let’s try to fail in new and more interesting ways, okay?