Full and upfront confession – it took me years, and I mean years, to apply this theory, mantra, call it what you like in my life.
A bit of context about me – my default mode was probably the furthest thing it could be from the fail fast mantra. I am an incessant planner and have probably filled multiple hard drives with gantt charts and thoughts on my career ambitions, how I’m going to retire by the age of 30 (that ship has clearly sailed) and other lofty (some would say hairbrained) goals.
If I assessed all the planning I’ve done versus the action I’ve taken…well let’s just stop there because I think you get the drift…
…and then one day it all finally came together for me – I got so frustrated with myself because I had become so good at arguing both sides of the same coin, so much so I would argue myself into stagnation. Allow me to elaborate –
Inevitably when you are planning something (anything) you will come to a stage where you need to make a judgment call on a path to follow. It’s almost like a leap of faith. When I would get to this stage I would end up in a flap and the result would be stagnation – I would just stop. At some stage my frustration would escalate and then I’d force myself into taking action which most often didn’t end up going according to plan and so I’d to throw the whole thing out and start again.
And so this was my modus operandi – which led to not a lot of progress.
As an aside, if I reflect on why I got to this stage I reckon a contributing factor is the industrial revolution and our current education system. Whilst we talk about fail fast and test and learn, the ecosystem by which 2016 life is predicated doesn’t look particularly kindly upon failures (exception being certain environments e.g. startups). We celebrate failures when they lead to an eventual success.
Looking back at when the tipping point occurred it was probably from working at PwC as a management consultant. One of the hallmarks of the approach we apply is advising clients to adopt a test and learn approach with a new initiative, program, whatever. Get out there and do it fast, get some feedback and then tweak your approach.
After a number of projects I realised that the key thing with this approach was that action is taken. Did things go according to plan all the time? No. And that is okay – until you take action you don’t really know what’s going to happen. You can plan till the cows come home, but you just don’t know.
And so for me the biggest thing I had to learn (and accept) was that it’s OK if things don’t go to plan.
Let me be clear – I still have my moments where I am drawn to incessant planning. The difference is I have a heightened level of consciousness coupled with some success adopting a fail fast approach. And this helps me in those times try and break from the habit.
And so one of the hallmarks of my program where I help people find their passion is to test what you think might be your passion quickly. Get out there and take some action. See how you feel. See what worked and what didn’t. Remember it’s OK if things don’t go to plan.
At least you know what works and what doesn’t, rather than filling up hard drives with plans after plans.