Management Insight: Plan for Failure – Guest Blog by Anne Josephson
I Don’t trust Myself so I Plan for Failure
by Anne Josephson (Anne, the wife of Michael Josephson, is CEO of the Josephson Academy of Gymnastics, one of the largest and most successful businesses of its type)
I don’t trust myself. As a result, I consistently plan for failure. To be clear, I don’t plan to fail, but I plan my reaction to failure and actions when it inevitably occurs.
In fact, I am a huge believer in planning for failure. Yes, that goes against the positive thinking model that stresses thinking optimistically in order to achieve the result or goal we are striving to reach. And, while I agree that an optimistic outlook is useful in helping frame goals and motivate change (after all, who wants to try to do something that seems out of their reach?), solely thinking optimistically makes it difficult to plan for failure. Some pessimism is needed.
Why plan for failure? For this reason: in the course of reaching any goal, the chances are almost 100% that there will be a point where things will go poorly. This is where being a wee bit pessimistic is actually helpful.
It turns out that whereas optimism inspires and motivates, it is pessimism that helps guarantee success. Quite often the key to success is managing ourselves for when things off track. For instance, it easy to diet–when you are not hungry! But when hunger strikes and donuts are in the staff room, it is a different story. Knowing that you will be faced with challenges, temptations, days that lack motivation and times when you veer from your goal—yes, being a little pessimistic–and making a plan on how you will react increases dramatically the chances that you will keep to your plan or, at least get yourself back on track when things go wrong.
Does planning for failure mean that you doubt yourself? I don’t think so. I think it means that you are realistic that you are a human who is flawed, gives into temptation and sometimes sells short-term pleasure for long-term goals. It isn’t self-doubting. It’s self-soothing.
A dose of pessimism is essentially an inoculation for perfectionism. It allows you to admit you are not without flaws, not to expect perfection and to find a way to forgive yourself when you mess up and a way to get back on track.
So, I don’t trust myself. I plan for failure. And it has been one of the major keys to my success.