I’ve seen suffocation warnings on virtually every plastic bag in the U.S. – including small dog-poo bags. They always get me wondering about the general demise of common sense. Now this.
I just don’t even want to imagine the chain of events that led to Ikea concluding that notices like these are required on toilets in their display washrooms (that have no doors on them).
Most of us see Google as such a successful colossus that we forget that giants also stumble (and fall), and that success and failure are part of the same coin called life. Here are a few thoughts regarding success and failure.
Perception: put failure in the right perspective; it’s an opportunity to regroup and learn while accepting the (failed) experiment as part of the journey of life and success.
Change: change depreciates the value of specific historical information, making specific predictions difficult and correspondingly risky. But what goes about comes about – and while specific predictions are difficult, trends are not. Build a business plan that acknowledged the inevitable – but is not dependent on the specific. For example, northern cities all plan for snow removal based on historic trends. Specific snow days and snow volumes for the upcoming year are anyone’s guess.
Limitation: in a world of limitation, the fundamental question is not whether people should accept failure. Rather, the question is how to anticipate failure and redirect resources to grow from the experience. On any given day there are so many variables beyond our control that it would be foolhardy to design a business plan that does not include a failure-factor. For example. At the retail level theft, breakage + returns are built into the retail price.
Information: scarcity of good information will present itself somewhere, somehow, sometime. The key is to learn from what this new failure teaches you and prevent it, if at all possible, from happening again. For example. At the retail level we know some of our products will be broken or stolen but not which ones.
Perfection: it's unattainable - period. In most industries failure is the most inevitable outcome. So any assumption regarding perfection stands at odds with the most fundamental premise of success: failure is inevitable.
Planning: because we cannot predict then future, we need to do our best to infer the best course through uncharted waters practically + intuitively. It’s how our ancestors discovered and settled the entire world. Today we’re exploring the solar system with exciting new tools, but the bottom line is the same for yesterday, today and tomorrow’s explorers: we do our best to estimate and anticipate risk and failure with a tolerable level of precision.
Execution: failure is not only the output of an unsuccessful activity; it is also the input of a successful one. Performance only changes and improves to the degree that you change and improve as a result of successful and failed tests.
Consequence: some look at failure as an extremely blunt instrument and surrender their dreams because of its potential consequences. Although tempting, do not allow the consequences of failure to harden your heart. The world is littered with the victims of failure. Yet failure leads to victory. Use each failure as feedback in your constant progression toward your goals.
Morris Saffer, one of my most insightful mentors taught me that we shouldn’t worry about stumbling or falling because that's inevitable. “Focus on how you recovery from the fall. That's what separates the winners from those who also ran.”
Michelle (my wife), Charlie (our dog) and I just got back from a 5,000 km plus trip that took us to Winnipeg and back, through Canada and many Northern States. It’s a beautiful trip across wonderful country packed with interesting people and places. Sadly we’re seeing more abandoned homes and businesses along the primary and secondary roads we travel. In some cases it’s because the latest highway improvement did away with the vital off-ramp. In other cases the industry that gave reason and sustenance to the town has moved on.
Now giant fibreglass fish, oxen, and skiers are many towns’ last investment and hope that a few tourists will stop by and help extend the town’s lifespan.
We also see a lot of discount or manufacturer’s outlet malls built around name brand discount food, gas and lodgings. They all look the same whether you’re in Wisconsin or New York state. It makes us wonder if there is a specal highway intersection master franchise licensing agreement that explicitly rules out any sense of local or cultural identity.
The Upper Peninsula (a.k.a. the U.P.) is one of the few exceptions. Local crafts are on sales everywhere – suggesting communities are working together to rebuild their tattered economies.
When I'm in Winnipeg, I can sit and watch trainloads of China Shipping containers file by all day long. And each time I wonder: what would Canada be like if it said B.C. Shipping on the 1st container, Alberta Shipping on the second container, Saskatchewan Shipping on the third container, Manitoba Shipping on the next one, Ontario Shipping on the next one. And so on and so on.
What if we were not so obsessed with “fast + cheap” and realized that if we want a great future for ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren, we need to pay a bit more to enable local companies to stay here, thrive here, employ the local community, and give us all the national pride that comes from quality products and services that are “Made in Canada”. (Not just "designed in Canada and made in China").
On my birthday my mother always wishes me good health, happiness and peace of mind. For most of my life I didn’t get it. I thought sex, drugs and rock-and-roll would be more fitting birthday presents. But more recently I’ve come to treasure her three wishes and wish our great country the same three things: vibrant environmental & economic health, happiness for all Canadians coast to coast to coast, as well as local + world peace in our time.
I'll leave you with a quote (that I found on a detergent bottle of all places) because it speaks to an intellectual state of mind we all need to reach if my wish for Canada is to come true.
"In our deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations."
— From the great law of the Iroquois Confederacy.
After a good meal Charlie and I feel content and both want to have a little nap. And when we snooze, we loose. Opportunities continue to flow by in the river of life but we’re too comfortable to notice them and seek them out.
The greatest gains in life are made during times of social or industrial turmoil. When I felt that my situation wasn’t good enough – or as good as it could be, especially after a layoff, I took more and greater risks because I had less to loose. And so it is with brands and brand stewardship as well.
New brands that are staking out their first territory have no following to alienate, nothing to lose and everything to gain. Think Uber.
In a few years I predict Uber will scream “bloody murder” because someone has disrupted it’s profitable but flimsy business model.
The business models of the most progressive organizations that I have worked with always made alternative thinkers welcome, but not too comfortable or secure. The strategy enables most of the organization to focus on the core business while not loosing sight of the need to seek out and seize new opportunities before the competition does.
“It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.” – Pablo Picasso
Do a bit of reading about Mr. Walter Disney. The man who saw a Magic Kingdom where others saw swampland.
Born Walter Elias Disney December 5, 1901. Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Died December 15, 1966 (aged 65), Burbank, California, U.S.
Occupation Entrepreneur, animator, voice actor, film producer
22 Academy Awards
3 Golden Globes