Don’t worry about failure, because you only have to be right once

Don't worry about failure, because you only have to be right once

In almost every blog post, I emphasize that you have to search for your personal fits before you commit to or brutally focus on anything.

The reason for that is to not set your life strategy based on naivety and wrong assumptions, but to really get to know yourself and your environment with mini experiments, which enables you to shape your life strategy based on superior insights, immediate feedback and actionable metrics.

Consequently, you can adjust more quickly and focus on what really brings progress, success and happiness.

It’s very well proven that agile and lean strategy works not only in the startup world, but also among big brands, non-profit organizations and other business entities as well as in personal life as this blog teaches you. And we must not forget that the agile and lean methodologies are taught at the best business schools in the World.

There is only one huge problem with this strategy.

You must have the guts to experiment, you must have the courage to try hundreds of different things and you must be prepared to fail. You must be prepared to learn through failure and put your ego aside. You have to admit to yourself that you’re wrong, that you don’t know anything. At least in the beginning.

In addition to that, you also need a little bit of scientific nature. You must be curious, you need the desire to try different things, to understand the world as well as possible, and you must be eager to gain superior insights about yourself and what you want out of life. You also need a set of metrics and a framework to decide when to persevere and when to pivot.

You almost always have to face some kind of apathy before you find your fit, which means that following the AgileLeanLife strategy requires quite a lot of resilience, persistence and faith in the process. But there is some very good news when we talk about apathy.

Much like there’s the rule that you are always wrong before you are right, in the same way there is a rule that you only have to be right once. Once you find your fit, you definitely still face different problems and challenges, but your life gets much easier. You know why and for what to fight. Your life mission becomes more important and huge than anything else in life.

Let’s go step by step and build the case for why you only have to be right once.

Why does finding the right fit matter so much?

The only way to be really successful in any area of life is first finding your own fit. Some people are lucky enough that their parents, teachers or mentors see their potential and orientate them onto the right path towards their fit, but in most cases you have to find it once you enter the adult life.

Values, which show what’s important to you and what you value, are what determines whether you fit with something or not. And your talents and other personality traits also play a big role. Anyway, when you find the right fit, you just know it.

When you find it, passion awakens in you. You find yourself in something. You know that you can be successful in this. You see potential. You start to flourish and consider yourself lucky.

I’ve seen people working in companies where they fit in and where they don’t. The difference in their level of happiness, productivity, motivation etc. is like night and day. I’ve seen people struggle with a sport just because it was supposed to help them lose weight the fastest, and people who were doing a sport they’re talented for and really like. The first ones gave up very soon, the second ones made real lifestyle changes.

I’ve seen people who settled for the first partner they dated as well as people who made up their minds about what kind of a partner they want and then started searching until they found someone close to that. The probability of long-term happiness is much higher for the latter. That’s why finding your personal fit is so important.

So here’s the first rule of success in life and the road to living a good quality life.

Find the right person to build an intimate relationship with. Find a person for whom all the struggle is really worth it; and it will be worth it. Find a career that really suits you best, one that you’re passionate about and where you can really deliver the value added. In the same way, find your perfect diet, a sport you like, a group of people who support you and where you fit in, and so on.

In every single life area put in the effort to find your perfect fit, the thing that is part of your DNA and on which you can build a successful life. Successful people find their fits, unsuccessful people are trying to be something they’re not or do things that lie far away from their talents.

Hitting target

You find your fit through the search mode

I hope finding your fits makes sense to you. But how do you do that? You find your fit using the search mode.

The idea of the search mode is that you consciously prepare yourself through a series of failures that will hurt a lot, but will open to you the path to validated learning about yourself and your environment. The search mode represents a mindset and a somewhat scientific and systematic approach to finding your fit.

  • You go to a several dates that don't work out
  • You work at a few companies that just aren't for you
  • You try a few different occupations and suck at them
  • You buy yourself a thing in hope that will make you happy but it doesn't
  • All these things hurt, but they enable you to learn about yourself

The first characteristic of the search mode is a special mindset. In the search mode, you shouldn’t have any expectations, you shouldn’t make any commitments and you shouldn’t do any hard work.

In the search phase, you just try, experiment, observe, reflect and learn about yourself and the world. The most important thing in this phase is to have no fixed ideas and no expectations at all. The key thing is to not to get too ego invested.

The second special characteristic of the search mode is the approach. Your only job in the search mode is to test the assumptions you’ve written down, correct them, and try different things. The key is to stay 100 % flexible and open-minded and, as mentioned, not invested in anything. Because the more you get invested, the more inflexible you become.

In practical terms, that means you should have a spreadsheet or a list of paper, where you write down:

  • What your assumption about yourself or the world is (I think the vegetarian diet would work for me)
  • How you will put your assumption to the test (I won’t eat meat for 3 months.)
  • How you will measure results (blood test, happiness index, energy levels etc.)
  • In which case you will decide to persevere and in which to pivot
  • A list of additional experiments you can make after you finish this one

The key thing you have to do is to do regular reflections when you’re performing the experiments. That is the most valuable part of the process.

Before marking a hypothesis as validated or rejected, you should ask yourself what you’ve learned, what you’ll test next, how you’ll change your plans, and so on. A search mode without deep and systematic reflection has very little value.

Again, if you don’t have a piece of paper with the key findings and insights, and if you don’t write down what you’ve learnt, you’re missing the point of the search mode.

Only after you find your fit in the search phase do you start executing. Sometimes it may take a few months to find you fit, sometimes a few years. After you find your fit, you go from the search mode to the execution mode. You set strong foundations, have laser focus, commit fully, start working hard and achieving your goals. You optimize, improve, and measure your progress with very detailed and execution type of metrics.

There are five big problems you have to face in the search mode:

  • You can easily get stuck in the analysis-paralysis.
  • You see learning only as a good excuse and thus there is no real validated learning.
  • You have emotional problems dealing with uncertainty, because you don’t trust the process, yourself or others enough.
  • You stick to things that don’t work, because your mind is not flexible enough or you get tired.
  • You expect short-term results that are rarely achievable.

All these five problems aren’t easy to deal with. But by far the hardest thing you have to face is the apathy before finding your fit.

In the search mode you really have to face apathy

The process before you find your fit is really painful and psychologically demanding. It’s called the apathy before finding your fit. Here are the main reasons that cause apathy:

  • You try a new thing and it doesn’t work. You try a new one, failure again.
  • Then you think you’ve found something good, but in the next step, you realize you haven’t.
  • From time to time, you realize how delusional and wrong you were and your ego suffers.
  • It almost always takes longer than expected and it costs more than you plan.
  • You need to sit down, analyze and be very systematic. Not to mention all the rejections you have to face.

This search phase really is best described with the quote that success is going from failure to failure without giving up. The whole process before finding your fit sucks even more in the beginning; because in the beginning, you’re a newbie and your competences and skills aren’t that good.

For example, you’ve just gathered the courage to start dating, but your dating skills suck, so you get rejected again and again.

But apathy is the necessary part. It’s the life test of whether you really want something and whether you’re prepared to fight for it. It’s a test of whether you’re able to get out of the Valley of Death or not. The alternative is not good.

If you don’t manage to get out of the Valley of Death, you turn into a zombie and your life turns to shit. On a more positive note, the apathy phase is also the part of the process where you learn and grow the most.

One more thing you must keep in mind. The worse that your starting position is, the more time it’ll take to find your fit. The worse that your starting position is, the longer the apathy will probably last.

A worse position simply means that you don’t yet know yourself and what you really want, that you lack resources, competences, leverages, and so on. In other words, you have to work harder for success if your starting point sucks.

The best news and a motivational thought to deal with apathy is the fact that you only have to be right once.

You only have to be right once

But you only have to be right once

You need to develop ONE competence based on your talents that is in high demand and low supply. You need to find ONE spouse who fits you perfectly and you can build a dream life together. You need to find ONE sport that you don’t dislike and have no troubles doing daily. You have to find ONE diet that enables you to maintain weight and feel energized. You need ONE business idea that works.

When you find your fit, you have something you can build your success on, which can last for years or even a lifetime. In addition to that, when you find your perfect fit, there is more room for common human errors (well, some of them). The perfect fit is the best cure for your mistakes.

Don't worry about failure; you only have to be right once.” – Drew Houston, Dropbox founder and CEO

But here’s the thing. The moment you’re right, all the bitter past failures turn into a winning strategy. You finally manage to climb to the top of the world.

Other people see you as lucky, but you know that finding your fit was a very carefully orchestrated process. You know you deserve it, because you put in all the hard and smart work. You know you succeeded because you joined the club of people who are willing to go through the apathy of the search mode.

Apathy and failure aren’t something that lasts forever. It’s something you pass by, if you learn quickly enough. You are wrong and wrong until you are right. Then you become a true winner. Luckily, you only have to be right once.