Straight Line to Success, Likely Not

Every one envisions their rip-roaring success that is preceded by everything working out just so and with everything falling perfectly into place. Some, inevitably, become discouraged when they encounter turbulence in life, and they give up and move on to the next thing. Many do not realize that failures and difficulty are simply obstacles to be overcome on the road to success.

When we encounter resistance we must remain resolute, and stay the course. It is not a bad sign if the path to success is not a straight line. Very few people perfectly nail it on their first try on every rung of the ladder. Some of the most successful people in the world have huge failures…. what do they do? They take a step back, reevaluate and move forward.

Many of us lay out our plan for success and marvel at how it is planned to a t and, hence, will work out for us. I know I have done this before. This plan could be for anything: financial gain, relationship repair, ten year success plan, and social status to name a few. In reality, it will most likely not turn out this way. For many of us that can be discouraging.

It is important to stay the course, and remember that it will, likely, be a crooked line to success not a straight one. Thomas Edison went through many many many iterations of the light bulb before he found one that worked. He stayed the course and wasn’t deterred by his failures. Today an improved version of his invention gives light to billions. None of that would be possible if he gave up after his 1,000th light bulb failed!

In 1776 A.D. during the American Revolution, the American army faced a force that was superior in training, numbers, artillery, and possessed the worlds largest navy. One of the most important characteristics of an army, particularly for its leader to possess, is the ability to bounce back from defeats and setbacks. Just as when the Americans lost the battle of Bunker Hill, despite inflicting massive casualties on the British. Or when their invasion of Quebec failed miserably with soldiers who weren’t killed or captured dying of smallpox. You have to be able to withstand many setbacks and losses. Just as the Americans did, and look at what it got them: they forged a whole new country because they stayed the course, even when it was hard and they faced setback after setback. Our ability to deal with setbacks and unexpected course corrections is directly linked to our success.

The trap that so many of us fall into is feeling like we are compromising where we shouldn’t be. We may feel that by accepting a change in course we are deviating from the direction that we are supposed to be moving in, or that we are loosing sight of our goal by allowing a change to happen. I definitely have personally experienced this, but I think what we have to remind ourselves of is that our plan has to have the ability to evolve. We would be wise to expand upon our original plans, even if that means that in our expansion we run headlong into a dead end or two. The American army had planned to overthrow the British, attain military control of the province, and convince the local population to join their cause. Their original plan didn’t work out as they had expected. The original plan rarely works, and we should expect to have to change it. Encountering a winding portion on a road that you thought was going to be straight is not a sign of deviation from the right course or of having chosen the wrong path. We should learn to be alright with making post launch adjustments.

I do not mean to suggest that if you keep pounding your head against the wall and pursuing your original goal that it will eventually all work out for you. It is very valuable to know when we should stop and abandon a course of action. We want to find the balance between giving in shortly after meeting resistance and pounding our head against the wall regardless of the signs that is time to stop and reevaluate. It is necessary for plans to evolve as we learn new things about the playing field. Plan evolution is not just necessary. It is often essential if we are to get to our end goal. Now this brings up an important distinction.

Our end goal and how we get there, i.e. our plan, are different things. Edison had the overarching idea of building a device that would provide light. His design of the light bulb, however, went through many iterations before its perfection. We have to use this model for our goals and dreams. We should not settle for less. We should instead, keep our vision the same but allow our plan to change and evolve. This is not to say that our goals and visions should not be allowed to change as we see fit but, often, people do settle for less or sometimes they just give up.

The bottom line is that the world is a scrappy, tough place to succeed in. And succeeding in it can be a daunting proposition. If we are serious about our success we must be OK with it being a bumpy road, with turns and double backs required. It will not be a simple point A to point B line….. sorry! It will take a true tolerance for effort and failure. It will take a thread of steel and possibly some relentless determination.

My challenge for you is to see what project course corrections you can make. Here is the caveat though, the project(s) has to be one that you have been resisting applying changes to. We really tend to clamp down on certain things, and it is a great exercise to practice loosening our grip and altering trajectory. It will, at the very least, show us places that we have clamp down on that we may not have even been aware of. Who knows? You might just be surprised by what good comes from making these changes. Just the fact that we are trying new things out and making changes to our course is a good thing.