It’s been awhile since I’ve written about failure, but not a day goes by when I don’t think about the concept of the “premortem.”
As a reminder, a premortem is an act of thinking about how you’ll fail before you do something. Modify your plans, and increase your chance of success.
For example, you’ve got a grandmother. She’s old but still around. Work backward and think about how she might die. Probably due to diabetes or loneliness if she lives in America. Get your ass over to Gramma’s house and spend time with her. Listen to her stories. Be a good grandchild. Don’t let her drink Sunkist soda with a slice of Entenmann’s coffee cake alone on the sofa while watching Wheel of Fortune.
Anyway, I’m no longer the CEO of a tech company, but I still use the premortem almost every day. This week, I had a conference call scheduled for 7 AM. I thought — that’s super early, and what if this person doesn’t show up? So I woke up at 6 AM and checked the reply status of the invitation. She hadn’t confirmed. So I went back to bed. Nobody is mad, everything worked out, and I got an extra hour and a half of sleep.
I also use the premortem on projects like HR Books and Let’s Fix Work. Yes, I wrote business plans. But I also wrote failure plans. Tons of failure scenarios — like how I always spend too much money — so I’m trying to be frugal while producing quality content. If these two projects don’t further bankrupt me that’s a win.
So, the premortem is a living breathing tool in my life. Just because I’m not working on GlitchPath doesn’t mean I didn’t learn from my foray into the world of technology. And just because the execution of my product failed doesn’t mean the idea failed.
Being intentional and thinking through risks scenarios will always be in vogue. You might not need software, but you need a reminder to balance your irrational exuberance with reality. So, I’m here to tell you there’s nothing to fear about failure. Anticipate and plan for it. Try to outsmart it.
I still believe that if you can see it, you can beat it. Just takes humility, practice, and a willingness to learn from your mistakes.
If you’re scared, that’s okay. Watch me do it, first.