Last week I was hunting in the wild woods of Kentucky (aka freezing my ass off). If anyone out there hunts, you know that it’s just a waiting game. You gear up and pack up for the day, hike out to your tree stand, climb said tree stand and wait. And wait. And wait. I think I’ve only shot a deer a couple of times (and I go hunting 2 or 3 times per year). Each time, I donate the meat to a local food shelf. It’s not about the hunt for me, it’s about the experience and the quiet and being removed from my every day surroundings so I can think. And think I did. Specifically about failure.
Building a business is hard. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Right now. Building a business is hard. It is not for the faint of heart or weak of mind and spirit. It takes hunger, drive, grit, passion, focus, discipline, and a whole lot of heart. Because you will fail and fail often and fail hard. The only ones who survive are the ones that can take those failures (and take them like a champ) and learn from them.
Aim. Fire. Learn. Reload.
AIM —> You need your target. You need to know the vision and you need to understand where you are going (and why!). You must clearly see the target in your sights. The clarity you have will spread to your team.
FIRE —> Stop thinking and shoot! Just pull the trigger. You’ve already set your sight on the goal, so pull the trigger, take action, and move. Don’t remain idle. Ever.
LEARN —> So you missed your target? So what? It’s not failure. It’s learning. And learning and failure is how we grow. That’s what business is. Therefore, in order for us to grow, we must fail, and we must learn from our failure.
RELOAD —> Failed? Good. Get your ass back in the arena and face whatever fear you have and own it.
Aim, fire, learn, reload. Know where you are going, take action, and fail forward. That’s the only way you’re going to learn and the only way you’re going to make significant progress. The faster you can aim, fire, learn, and reload, aim, fire, and learn again, the faster you will get to your goal. It doesn’t have to be perfect and you don’t have to be completely ready. If you wait too long before you fire, you run the risk of stalling progress, talking yourself out of it, or missing an opportunity.
Former Secretary of State, Colin Powell, came up with the 40/70 rule that explains this concept. This rule states that leaders should make decisions when they have between 40%-70% of the information needed. If you make a decision with less than 40% of the information you’re shooting from the hip. But, if you wait until you have more than 70% of the information you could get stuck, overwhelmed and you may risk the productivity and effectiveness of your entire organization. You can read more about the 40/70 Rule in this article.
So what’s a leader to do? Set the vision and continue to communicate the goals clearly and consistently. You’ve got to know what you’re aiming at. Next, take action! And if the first arrow you shoot doesn’t work, pull another one out of your quiver. Do not give up. Your shot will not hit the target every time and that’s okay. Sometimes you’ll be a few marks off and sometimes your arrow will end up in a woods a few hundred yards away. Pause (briefly) and figure out what went wrong and why you failed. It’s what you learn here, that you then apply to your next move, that is critical. Then you reload and try again.
In the words of the great Winston Churchill, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
When life is knocking you down, do you have the courage to get back up?