Have you ever started something, ran up against some sort of wall, then quit? I have, more than once. Did you ever hear of a successful person who started something, ran into a wall, and quit? I haven’t! I have heard of many successful people who have started something and failed, but I have never heard of a very successful person who started something and quit.
This is a good reminder for me this week as my colleague Chris and I have launched an endeavor that neither of us know exactly what the outcome will be. Chris and I are both very passionate about leadership and building an effective culture in the workplace. We worked very hard on our presentation related to this topic and our first opportunity to give this presentation was at a national CIO conference in Atlanta this week. Chris had to stay back at the office so I was flying solo. When I got to the conference I was very excited about the opportunity but after a day and a half of listening to other presenters I was doubting our message. I thought, who would want to hear about leadership and culture when there are real problems to solve? There were CIO’s of very large and well known companies presenting, a product manager from Google presented, as well as professors from prestigious universities. All of the presentations were on very challenging topics that CIO’s and technical leaders in organizations are struggling with. The presentations were all very engaging, enlightening, and educational. I found out that there were two lectures going on at the same time. There were two presentation rooms, one was on the main floor where everyone gathered, about 40 people or so in total. The other room was a smaller room one floor up, this is the room where I would be presenting. After lunch, everyone went to the meeting room downstairs, that is everyone but me and one other guy. I was getting really nervous and was wondering if this was going to be a 45 minute conversation with this one guy from Texas. They made an announcement downstairs about my session and four others joined us. As I was about to begin, I really had some internal struggles going on. Why only five? I started to question a lot of things and got a little flustered. Then it hit me, a reminder of several stories I had read, a reminder of humble beginnings. I made a decision right then and there that whether there were five or 5,000, I would do the very best I could. Once I resolved to do that, I relaxed and enjoyed myself. It went well and I got some good feedback from 60% of the audience!
Perseverance is not a popular subject. Most people want success in two ways, easily and quickly. While we may not know exactly where this is going, I know both Chris and I want to be successful and get our message out there and have a positive impact on as many people as we can. If I had sat down before the event and wrote down my criteria for success, I probably would have written something like this: putting my ego aside, doing the best I could, learning as much as I could from the experience, and applying what I learned to make improvements for the next opportunity. A certain size audience would not have played into my success criteria at all. We both fully understand that this is a process, not an event, and we are working to schedule presentations at upcoming industry conferences.
A huge lesson learned there – define success before you begin and resolve to push through even if you fail.
How can you apply this to what you are doing? What project or endeavor are you working on where a pause or reflection on the definition of success would be beneficial? Maybe you are fearful to even begin because you might fail before you see success. That is often the case and just knowing that can be very comforting. Start with a small step, but before you do, determine how it can be successful, and resolve to push through even if it fails. Document the failure and go back to your plans, thoughts, or ideas, and see where you miscalculated or didn’t think through. TRY IT AGAIN! Do not give up. Persevere! Ever hear of anyone who was successful and failed? Me too!