Success and Failure: You’re Thinking About It Wrong

We dream that someday soon, someone will recognize our genius: a big time agent reads our script and signs us; a major creative director sees our work and is compelled to feature it; the CEO reads about a project we helped push through and makes us vice president.

On the other side, we worry that one mistake will be our downfall.  If we don’t close this sale, that’s the end of us.  If we don’t win this argument, we’re through.  If we don’t make our numbers, we’re fired.

It’s easy to think in such extremes, but it rarely works this way in the real world.

We succeed one step at a time.  Empires are built one brick, one follower at a time.  Empires crumble one brick, one follower at a time.  Sure, we can point to many examples of things that appear to become wildly successful overnight, but we never see the work it took to get to that point.  As Monty Hall said: “I’m an overnight success, but it took 20 years.”

This idea of slow, steady growth or decay isn’t exciting or glamorous, but it’s how it works.  We win one at a time, and we lose one at a time.

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