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How to Succeed and Fail

How to Succeed and Fail

How to Succeed and Fail

All successful action can be described by a simple five-part formula:

Leadership and Management : How to Succeed and Fail

The five part "success formula" is this:

  1. Decide on a definite purpose.
  2. Formulate your best plan.
  3. Take decisive action.
  4. Gather and evaluate feedback. Both positive and negative.
  5. Make progress by continually changing and evolving.

If this five-part formula describes all successful action, then the opposite formula would describe failure.

So, let us figure it out. Let us write down the opposite of each element of the success formula and figure out what failure is.

Failure formula step one: NO purpose

The opposite of purpose is to have NO purpose. We call that "Drifting".

Drifting is a cause of failure. Drifting means "having no goal". Having no ambition. Aiming at nothing in particular. The aimless, directionless, drifter mentality is the first part of the failure formula.

Having a drifter mentality is the first way to fail.

Failure formula step two: Have NO plan

The opposite of having a written plan, is NOT having a written plan: which means, trying to wing it, with no plan.

There are people who try to get by without doing any planning. They don't bother with it. They just make it up, as they go. They like to call it, improvising, because it sounds better than winging it.

But they are winging it. They are operating without any plan. Without any forethought. Without any preparation. They have not heard that having no plan is a terrific way to fail.

Planning is an indispensable part of the success formula. And if a person does dispense with planning, then they are triggering the failure formula at step two.

Never wing it. Instead, plan it.

Remember the five-part success formula: Purpose, Plan, Action, Feedback, Change.

Failure formula step three: Take No action = Procrastinate

The success formula step three is TAKE ACTION. The failure formula is therefore, take NO action.

There are many people who fail, because they don't do anything.

Not doing anything to succeed is a sure fire way to fail. Not doing anything to succeed is so common, that it is almost universal. And not doing anything to succeed, will guarantee failure.

How many people have plans they don't follow? Diet plans they don't follow. Business plans they don't follow. Exercise plans they don't follow. New years resolutions they don't keep.

Not taking action is the same as procrastination, laziness and neglect.

Procrastination, laziness and neglect is a formula for certain failure.

Failure formula step four: Fight the feedback

The success formula is, "Gather the feedback; especially the negative feedback". Find out where you are NOT doing very well, (and use that information to improve your performance).

The failure formula is the opposite. Fight the negative feedback.

A person on the failure formula refutes all criticism. They don't accept any criticism, mistaking all criticism as "a put down".

Some people cannot seem to any accept criticism of their performance. They fight it. They won't listen. And therefore they won't learn from their mistakes.

Instead, they DEFEND their mistakes.

It is a mistake to defend your mistakes. Instead you should analyse them and learn the lesson they contain.

Theoretically, you should never make the same mistake twice.

You should always listen to, and learn from, negative feedback.

Failure formula people never listen to, nor learn from negative feedback.

Failure formula step five: Failure to change = Stubbornness

As we have just mentioned, success formula means that you should learn from negative feedback and make the necessary adaptive changes to your current actions.

Failure formula people NEVER change. They hate change. They fight change.

They wont change because they feel they have the right to "do whatever they want to do and be whatever they want to be". Which they do of course. Failure to change in the light of off target feedback, means that you keep doing what isn't working.

This is stubbornness. The refusal to change even though what you are doing is not working, is plain FAILURE formula.

How many people do you know, who are stubborn? They won't change, even though it is obvious that their current habits are destructive.

Stubborn people won't change. They won't change their habits, they won't change their minds, they won't change their fashion sense, they don't evolve. They remain very primitive beings.

They remain primitive because they won't make evolutionary, adaptive changes to their habits, based upon an evaluation of the negative feedback their current habits are producing. They are stubborn. And stubbornness is failure formula.


Five part success formula:

  1. Purpose;
  2. Plan;
  3. Action;
  4. Feedback;
  5. Change.

Five part failure formula:

  1. Drift.
  2. Wing it.
  3. Procrastinate.
  4. Fight feedback.
  5. Stubbornness.

Here is the rule to remember:

Notice any element of the failure formula in yourself and others, and take immediate action against it.

If the success formula is so simple, why isn't everyone doing it?

Quiz: What is the Difference Between Insult and Feedback?

Do you know the difference between valid criticism in the form of feedback, and invalid criticism in the form of insult? Try our quiz to find out.

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About the Author: Chris Farmer


Chris Farmer is the founder of the Corporate Coach Group and has many years’ experience in training leaders and managers, in both the public and private sectors, to achieve their organisational goals, especially during tough economic times. He is also well aware of the disciplines and problems associated with running a business.

Over the years, Chris has designed and delivered thousands of training programmes and has coached and motivated many management teams, groups and individuals. His training programmes are both structured and clear, designed to help delegates organise their thinking and, wherever necessary, to improve their techniques and skills.

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