Project Management Institute

Failing your way to success


Don't let a few mistakes get in your way.


Inventor Alexander Graham Bell said, “What this power is I cannot say; all I know is that it exists and it becomes available only when a man is in that state of mind in which he knows exactly what he wants and is fully determined not to quit until he finds it.”

I've failed many times in my professional life, but I kept at it. That's known as commitment and persistence.

As a child, I learned how to ride a bike. It began with training wheels, but eventually the crutches were removed and keeping my balance became more difficult. Perhaps you had a similar experience. You struggled to stay upright, maybe even falling a few times and getting scraped up. Still, you got back on and tried again. You might not have realized it at the time, but you were learning an important early lesson about failure.

But that was a long time ago.

As youngsters, we knew we had to fall a few times to master this new skill. As we got older, though, we started to perceive making mistakes as a bad thing, rather than an essential ingredient in achieving our goal.

Successful people may not particularly enjoy their failures, but they recognize the value of those setbacks. To develop a new skill or reach a target, you must be committed to doing what it takes to get there—even if it means putting up with negative feedback or falling on your face now and then.

The Power of Persistence

The key to getting what you want is the willingness to do whatever it takes to accomplish your objective. It's an attitude that says: If it takes five steps to reach my goal, I'll take those five steps, but if it takes 30 steps to reach my goal, I will take those 30 steps.

On most occasions in the project field, you don't know how many steps you must take to reach your goal or to accomplish your deliverables.

Here are my own rules for project management persistence:

» To develop a new skill or reach a target, you must be committed to doing what it takes to get there—even if it means putting up with negative feedback or falling on your face now and then.

1. I will have no regrets. Even if the desired result does not come about, I know I tried my best.

2. I will achieve my dreams through small actions. I don't need to take massive action each day. Even little steps will bring me closer to my goal.

3. I will live in the moment. I won't focus on the past or dwell too much on the future.

4. I will keep my goals in sight. To keep my vision front and center, I will carry a written copy of my goals and review them every day.

5. I realize I will encounter obstacles. Goals are what lie behind stumbling blocks. If I can't vault over them, I will manoeuvre around them.

6. I will focus on one or two goals only. Too many objectives dissipate our energies, and loss of energy is followed by loss of persistence.

7. I will trust myself. If others can do it, so can I. I know all the power to achieve my goals lies within me.

8. I will take a break every now and then. After every success, no matter how slight, I will let myself rest and then get back on the job rejuvenated.

9. I will be flexible. Sometimes you have to break with traditional processes.

10. I will be patient. Time defeats persistence. It is our greatest friend and our greatest enemy. PM

Alfonso Bucero, MSc, PMP, is an independent consultant who manages projects throughout Europe and Asia. He is the author of Project Management—A New Vision and Today is a Good Day: Attitudes for Achieving Project Success.

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