Failure is the best teacher out there. We don’t learn too much when we succeed, because we tend to take it for granted. We’re biased by our own expectations so we welcome success without examining too much the steps that led us there. But when we fail, oh, the drama! The hurt, the loss, the emotional response! All these painful reactions, though, have a very beneficial effect: they’re forcing us to look back, to investigate, to understand and, eventually, to learn how to avoid all this suffering next time. The bigger the pain we experience, the deeper the lesson.
I’ve been fortunate enough to live through both success and failure, both in business and relationships. In time, I came to a certain understanding, one that links these areas with subtle similarities. Looking back, I can see how money and relationships can be secured (at least to some sensible extent) with more or less the same attitude.
What follows is a very short list of simple, overlapping approaches.
1. Stop Doing What’s Not Working
I’ve been involved in many startups. A couple of them succeeded, but most of them didn’t live through to even tell their story. In the beginning, I was very much attached to my idea, and to my commitment to make that idea a reality. Which means it was hard for me to let go, even if it was clear the business is not working. I had to go through some very painful failures to understand this. I lost a lot of time and money, but I also learned how to stop doing what’s not working. Eventually.
It’s the same in relationships. We may get so attached to the person we adore, that we fail to see the shortcomings, and persist in an interaction that clearly doesn’t lead anywhere. Here, too, I had to go through some painful lessons. I hoped that by loving the other one, I can “change” her. But, in the end, I realized that one must never accept to be treated like a book on a shelf owned by someone who can’t read. Just move on and, after you learned you lesson, open up for the next experience.
2. Build Up Slowly, Check Up Often
Early success in business is actually a bad thing. If it happens so fast, you don’t have enough data to extract knowledge from, and make that success repeatable, or at least predictable. It was just luck. So, it’s way better to start building up very slowly, understand which steps led in the right direction, and check up often on the health of the business, of the company and of your own. There is this very popular saying: “overnight success usually takes fifteen years” with which I happen to wholeheartedly agree.
In relationships, a sudden “coup de foudre” is also not very good for the health of the interaction. As a matter of fact, if things are progressing too fast, that’s usually a serious red flag. One of the parts in the relationships is either deluding him/her self, or is manipulating the other person by plain lying (most of the time), or just over-embellishing the truth. Either way, this is not going to work. It’s way better to advance with small steps, get to know each other thoroughly and move on only after frequent check ups.
3. If It Looks Too Good To Be True, It’s Because It Isn’t
I’ve seen dozen, if not hundreds, of businesses which looked very good on paper. All the predictions were hitting spot on, the research looked so good, but then, when reality hit hard, the founders realized how much they were projecting their own expectations on the business. There is no such thing as a perfect business. There are things we can’t predict, situations we cannot handle as well as we thought we can, and, overall, there is a mix of good and bad stuff in any project. The way to go is to welcome the good, and work out the bad.
Similarly, if a relationship looks too good to be true, it actually isn’t (that doesn’t mean I wasn’t biased to believe so myself in the past, I am just as human as any reader of my blog). But, in time, I learned how to differentiate between my own expectations, or the colors I was painting the other person in, and the real person, as well as her true colors. In the past, this process would have taken years of “trying to make it work”. Now, I learned to extract myself – as painful as it may be in the moment – in a matter of weeks (or months, at most).