Yesterday, my OBGYN handed me a “birth plan” worksheet. HAH!
I understand that the hospital wants to go over your options before delivery, and they want to support your decisions during delivery, but really? A birth plan? It implies that you can PLAN how your baby will be born. They of ALL people should know that isn’t possible.
I told my doctor that I would create a birth “flow-chart.” Flow charts are full of “if this, then that” decisions. If I can handle the pain, we’ll go natural. If I’m in so much distress that the baby’s struggling, we’ll go epidural. If my water breaks and 30 hours later I’m only dilated at a 5, take them via cesarean.
You get the picture. I hoped for a natural birth, but it wasn’t my “goal.” Instead of a plan, I had a system that would allow me to adapt to whatever happened.
Today, someone asked me “what’s your business plan?”
“Plan? You can PLAN a business? HAH!”
Plans and goals are all well and good, but in order to make a plan and expect to carry it out, you have to build it using only plan-able steps. So, that rules out any area where you aren’t the world’s leading expert, and anything that involves the future. Because no one knows the future. Kind of limiting, don’t you think?
I grew up with a mom who was a chronic goal-setter (still is.) To me, goals have always felt like a mortgage on my efforts. What if I hit a hurdle that makes the goal not worth it anymore? What if I start gaining momentum in a better direction? Am I going to let the check-box of my “goal” determine if I’ve accomplished something or not?
A few years ago, I read this article in the Wall Street Journal by Scott Adams, the cartoonist behind Dilbert. In it, he talked about the power of using systems instead of goals. His exact words were “goals are for losers.” Goals put us in a perpetual state of being short of our target, whereas systems give us the ability to constantly adapt and grow. I wanted to jump up out of my Starbucks chair and shout “I KNOW, RIGHT?!?!”
So far, in my current business, I can’t count the number of times I’ve failed. And yet, I’m moving forward faster every week. How?
Believe it or not, failing is your ticket to success. Not so much that you want to fail or try to fail, but that you aren’t letting the fear of failure hold you back. The road to success is paved with failure – if failure doesn’t scare you, you’ll charge ahead excited instead of shuffling along slowly until the embarrassment makes you quit.
“Fail forward” is the battle cry of the entrepreneur, as evidenced by:
…and too many online articles to list, including pieces in HuffPost and Forbes.
If I could guarantee that my kids inherit just one of my traits, it would be that I fail well. I mean really, really well.
I’m not being self-deprecating, I’m actually proud of how good I am at failing at stuff. I can fail all day long and then call it a good day. I learned how to navigate our tangled web of freeways in Sacramento by getting lost on purpose for 5 hours straight, taking this freeway and to that one until I finally understood how they all connected… and also how to get home.
I can fail at a game, and still have fun.
I can fail to launch a business and then shrug and say “Welp, that sure didn’t work.”
Someone once told me that they were launching a Kickstarter campaign, and I replied “I know all about Kickstarter! I have a campaign failing right now!” Know what happened next? He PAID ME ACTUAL MONEY me to do a consult on his campaign! (Which failed. 95% of Kickstarter campaigns do.)
I’m always leery of the books and programs where people claim to have “made all of the mistakes already so that you don’t have to!” I don’t doubt that they made some mistakes. Probably lots of them. They’re an idiot if they think they made them all.
This isn’t minesweeper, there are no red flags that pop up when all the bombs have been found. You could buy all the “guaranteed fail proof” formulas in the world, and you would still fail along the way. The question is, would you keep going.
For every success, there are 100 failures. If each of your failures deals a major blow to your psyche, you are going to end up in a mental hospital before you reach success.
Systems allow you to adapt when you fail, to leverage the forward movement you had into a new direction, to treat failure as added information instead of lost time.
Goal-based plans will only give you a big angry “YOU FAIL!” sticker and leave you to drink your fail-beer. (I actually brewed some fail-beer once. It’s terrible. Here, try some!)
HOW ABOUT YOU? Don’t be shy, share some of your failures with your MHM Facebook community. It’s the safest, most supportive place I can think of to do so.
Emma Fulenwider is our MHM team writer, covering the many aspects of Mom-preneur life. A mother of two and memoir writer by trade, she runs Cedar Pen Memoir Services from her home in Sacramento.