I was working on a project last night that wasn’t going particularly well.
In fact, I had been avoiding it for the last year or so, and I remembered last night why this wasn’t done before as my usual modus operandi of:
- tacking the project head on
- getting reminded by a kick in the face of why I had abandoned it previously and
- ultimately reaching a frustration threshold that required putting the project on hold again
was already in full swing.
And then I remembered something, from the Hagakure,
“Seven times down. Eight times up.”
I’ve written before about increasing one’s awareness for potential lessons that you can learn from a given situation, but I think it’s important to revisit this area periodically as it can be a stumbling block.
I used to get really frustrated when things didn’t work out. Admittedly, my capacity to fail at things is world class. For a long time my success rate for projects turning out positively as I expected them to was about 5%.
I would look at those situations, and analyze them endlessly to try to figure out what was wrong and see what I could learn from them.
But there was a commonality with the 90-95% failure rate.
That commonality was me.
Once I stopped blaming external forces, and started taking on the blame, I realized that this issue wasn’t execution – it was expectation. I had expectations of making things work through sheer force of will, even when a more objective observation would have revealed that financial, technical or scheduling shortcomings were things that could not always be overcome by sheer force of will.
So I started working on a modified time set. I didn’t worry about how long it took for me to get something down. I didn’t worry about having to have something perfect. I just did the best work that I could do, and did it as often as I could.
If I had written my first guitar book and expected it to set the world on fire, I would have been crushed at never getting it out the door.
Instead, I developed another project and used the skills and focus from the first project to make a better book.
My print editions are now getting proper covers – some of them TWO YEARS after I wrote them. If I settled on a crappy design and locked myself into that two years ago, I would have had something amateurish that I would have been ashamed of. Now I have something I can stand behind.
That never would have happened if I had been in a rush. If I had had expectations that it was going to be perfect or be nothing.
Now I have 10 books that I’ve written (8 of them published). I’ll write more. But if I had stopped when the first (still unpublished one) didn’t pan out – I never would have completed the others.
You will face setbacks in whatever you do. The reason to embrace them is that if you have a setback, it’s because you’re doing something.
Consider this for a moment. If you try to move 100 small things forward and 95 of them fail – you’re still 5 things further ahead than you were.
So now I’m plowing through that project – as painful and slow going as it is – not because I have to get it done, but because the intertia in getting that thing done will act as fuel for all the other things I have to do.
And there’s a lot to do.
I hope this helps!
As always thanks for reading.