Secret # 1 Failing Forward
Few things in life have to be perfect out of the gate.
Maybe aiming a missile or performing surgery. Although, the more TV drama I watch, the less even these seem absolute!
What is the secret of ‘failing forward’?
Do it now, and perfect it later.
It’s based on the premise that it’s easier to stay in motion than it is to get in motion.
Boy, do I get hung up in analysis paralysis, circling a thing until I’m dizzy. Making mountains out of molehills. Being my own personal bureaucrat.
Failing forward is movement on things that are stuck in mental mud.
Get something started and out on the table – look at it, walk around it, test it out, throw darts at it – but get started.
5 Fantastic reasons to ‘fail forward’
Failing forward frees up mental space
Perfectionism is a prison.
Once I give myself permission to do whatever I know to do, the best way I know to do it, progress happens.
At the beginning of a project, there’s this space of the unknown. How much time, money, energy, and knowledge will it take?
By simply getting some momentum going, the answers to these questions become obvious.
Failing forward unlocks productivity
Some jobs just need to be done. They don’t need to be done perfectly.
Sweeping, mopping, washing the car – tasks like these, by definition, are being undone as fast as we do them.
Lower the gold standard and give tasks their due.
For bigger, complex projects, just gathering up the supplies and doing one micro-task can be enough to open the log jam.
I need to hang three things on the walls in my office. The three things have been sitting in the corner for weeks. Today, I commit to finding the hanger do-hickeys and a hammer. I know it will only take 10 minutes…
Do you ever hold back permission to do something new and exciting because of all the little mosquito tasks buzzing around your head?
Failing forward is creative
Back to that analysis paralysis.
When ideas are stuck in your head, as good intentions, or to-do’s frozen on a long list, you don’t even have the chance to put yourself to the test.
Ideas beget more ideas. Spend them freely.
Some of it even sticks
This is the forward part of ‘failing forward.’
Like throwing spaghetti noodles on the ceiling to see if they’re done, some of your trials will be just right.
Things get done, habits change, goals are accomplished.
Failing forward is cumulative
Just getting started will become a habit.
You will become a chronic getter-doner, instead of a gonna-doer.
Put failing forward into action
Big bold ideas
A bold idea is writing a book, a major house remodel, learning to garden, starting a business, moving, losing weight…
The big, complex, multi-step aspirations are easy to put off.
For one thing, they offer an unlimited chance to keep gathering information. And if we’re researching, we’re moving forward, right?
Only to a point.
The nature of big, bold ideas means that there’s no instruction sheet or surefire way to proceed.
Eventually, we have to pick an action and take it. Then the next thing, then the next thing…
It’s good to have routines, they bring order to life.
About ten years ago a time management book made the rounds in the homeschool community and gained a lot of popularity. The premise of the method was to schedule every person in your family in 15-minute increments. Every moment of everyone’s day needed to be accounted for. Every important intention in your life had it’s allotted time.
I was a young mom; the author was an experienced mom. She sounded so sure of her method. 15-minute increments held the promise of a perfect family life, educated children, and home-grown tomatoes.
Well, not so much.
Have you ever tried to keep six people on track within a 15-minute margin of error?
I tried. It did not improve my personality.
There is a big difference between a routine and a schedule. A routine allows for ‘failing forward.’ There’s a plan, like a train track. But you know the track is going to have a buckle in it up ahead.
That’s life. So you stop and deal with the buckle and continue on the way.
Schedules, on the other hand, hit that same buckle and completely derail.
Derailment causes casualties – even if it’s only to your mood.
What have you been meaning to learn? This could be related to your big, bold idea.
Maybe a language, a computer skill, an instrument, art technique, to cook…
What’s the hold-up?
It could be not knowing where to start. It could be finding the perfect way to learn it or the perfect program.
Are you telling yourself you don’t have time?
Learning can open a floodgate of creativity and opportunity in our lives.
Marking special days
First, my disclaimer: I love Pinterest. A lot.
But, Pinterest has spawned a new disease. It’s the “every event has to be magazine worthy” disease.
We used to send our kids to church with little punch out Valentines from the grocery store. The super fancy ones had a sucker attached.
We didn’t know that Presidents Day, Dr. Suess’s birthday and National Ice Cream Week deserved an elaborate celebration.
Some of the stuff you see in la-la land would require you to repaint the interior of your house. Heaven forbid the walls clash with the party theme!
Children do not remember this stuff. They only remember that your family was a fun place to be.
So who are we doing it for? Hmmm…
By all means, when you have the time, energy and money go all out. But, if perfection is keeping you from stopping to celebrate special moments in life, aim for the memories.
Any type of writing
From email to the annual Christmas letter, nothing stops us in our tracks like a blank page.
Recently, I did a series of interviews for our church bulletin. I spent a few hours spinning my wheels, trying to give shape to my notes.
Finally, I just wrote it, rough and raw, and sent it to a friend I knew would collaborate (i.e., be brutal with the red pen). Sure enough, he sent it back covered in
It was exactly what I needed. Not only did I polish off the piece in 10 minutes, but I had a working template for the next six issues.
Anytime a job of writing comes your way, get something on the page. Anything. Then fix it and polish it. Or get a second set of eyes.
I always tell my kids, “I can’t edit a blank page.”
Here is another area of life that tends to be put off, in the hope of discovering the perfect program.
The big secret of exercise is…moving.
I wish I could package that and sell it!
Here’s a good motto: Move. Anyway. Everyday.
If it makes you feel good, do it again the next day.
The more I exercise, the braver I get to try new things.
When we started going to a gym, the equipment intimidated me. But, I wanted to lift weights. On a quiet day, I tried out the most obvious machine. While counting out reps, I secretly watched (trying not to look creepy) people using other machines. One at a time I mastered the nuance of Nautilus.
For you, it might be kickboxing class. It looks so fun to punch the air and kick at nothing – all to the beat of the music. Find a spot in the back and go for it.
Trust me; no one cares what you look like. They’re all focused on staying alive too.
Styling a space (decorating)
I have some bare walls – wall art is my decorating bugaboo.
There is one empty frame I put up – gulp – eight years ago. Oh, the decorating shame!
Then there’s my mantle which is picketing, “Love, Not Dust!”
What am I waiting for?
Money isn’t a good excuse. There are a lot of things I could do that fall between completely free to minimal cost.
That’s the problem with decorating, right?
There are endless resources and options in home decorating. I’m looking for the perfect idea that will tie together my decorating universe, and it’s just not that big of a deal.
I love the School of Decorating (formerly Teal and Lime). Jackie is so generous with her down-to-earth decorating process. I don’t have any business affiliation with School of Decorating; I just think the content is incredibly doable and clearly communicated. Check out her free course to get started.
Similar to learning projects, but hobbies are the things we already know how to do.
The things we used to do when we had “free time.”
What have you set aside that you would like to pick up again?
Just want to
Do you have an interest that doesn’t make sense in the scheme of your life? Something you just want to do because it’s there?
“If you have two or three real passions, don’t feel like you have to pick and choose between them. Don’t discard. Keep all your passions in your life.” – Austin Kleon
Check out Austin Kleon’s books:
Pick 3 rule
I gleaned this idea from Scott H. Young.
I find this completely liberating.
You can use this idea for every level of life planning:
From the big picture – what three purposes do you have in life?
To the most runway level tasks – what three things do you need to get done today to have a presentable house?
Picking three things and doing them well is a great way to put yourself in motion.
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Doing nothing perfectly = nothing.
I’ve lost count of the number of times a project went stale. Weeks go by, sometimes years. Then I get started, and it only takes a fraction of the time and energy I expected it to.
Better to trip over ourselves a little than staying stuck.
How do you ‘fail forward’ to keep the productivity ball rolling?
20 Secrets to Multiply Your Time Series: