Sunday, January 20, 2013

Can You Choose Success?

I read an article (and, apologies, I forget where it was online) about how entrepreneurs motivate themselves to success by simply "choosing not to fail."

Is it that simple?

The article's premise is that, if you have a singular goal (ie the success of your business), then failure is not an option.

Based on the failure rate of businesses, I don't think a myopic view of any goal is the simple path to success. I did watch a documentary, The Queen of Versailles, that detailed the struggles of a businessman who was pinned the success of his entire company on the launch of one new business unit. I could see the drive discussed in the "choose not to fail" article in this documentary; however, the documentary included interviews with people involved with the company who shared the perspective that the business overall would be successful if the owner stopped focusing on the success of the one business unit and simply let that part fail.

I agree that you have a choice between success and failure. I think, however, that to "choose not to fail," you need to have a broad goal. You don't want to be the dry leaf -- changing course without purpose -- but you also don't want to be so stuck to a myopic vision that provides limited opportunity for success.

To bring things back to the job hunt (as that's where most of my energy is focused these days), my biggest goal when I became unemployed was to find unemployment that made the most of my previous work experience and provided a work culture that fit me. Specifically, I took a risk six years ago to stay at a company where I did not fit with the corporate culture so I could accrue experience in higher level management. Working in that type of environment was emotionally tiring (I didn't realize how much until I wasn't in it anymore!). I did not want to take a job below a management level because I felt (and still feel) that it would have meant those six years of emotional stress were for nothing. I also never want to put myself in a situation again where I discount the importance of cultural fit to my overall work experience (or think that, with enough positive attitude, I can change a culture from the inside without being the owner or president/CEO of a company). If I can't invent a time machine to make different choices, then I need to make the choices that I made count.

My goal was singular enough to focus my efforts, but not so myopic as to limit my opportunities. Depending on the size and complexity of an organization, management positions can be several levels deep. After reflection, I didn't feel that I needed to stay at my same level of management because, depending on the organization, a lower level of management may more directly correlate to my level of experience. While I have some experience, and a lot to offer an employer or client base (if I chose to go into business for myself), I'm not so short-sighted as to think that I have nothing more to learn.

I also knew that my interviews needed to be two-way -- I needed to grill any company that I met with about culture and leadership to ensure that I would feel that I fit the organization when I walked in on Day 1. I also needed to pay attention to my gut throughout the process. With my most recent work experience, there were numerous points prior to employment where I knew that the company would not be a cultural fit for me; I discounted those misgivings and rationalized the interactions. In the end, my gut was right.

Based on my goal choice, I am able to say that "failure is not an option." My goal is not limited geographically or by industry. If I need to make a calculated geographic or industry move to achieve the goal, then I will.

Today, I am grateful for getting one of the last flu shots at my grocery store and that the flu shot this year is on target for the strain(s) of flu going around. This is my first-ever flu shot. Seeing how severe the flu outbreak is in my area, and the fact that the immunization is on target for the specific strain being spread, I finally decided to bite the bullet. (Interestingly, my great-grandmother died of the flu; you would think that the experience, which left my grandfather motherless at a rather young age, would make me more attuned to the severity of the illness and the necessity for prevention, now!)

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