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While the words in the title were never actually said in Apollo 13 control room, they are now forever interlocked with space travel. Many things can happen and are accepted – except for this one. I’ve seen many managers using the phrase often enough to trivialize it. More often than not, failure turned out to be a very viable option – the sole that realized. Even NASA, with all their hard work and technology, suffered some fatal accidents – usually quite spectacular.

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Typical pattern of becoming Agile – make a decision, decide to try Scrum, fail miserably, return to previous way of working (or reinvent the wheel). Here’s the news: you SHOULD fail with Scrum at the beginning. It’s specifically designed to highlight all the deficiencies
of your organization. Whether you do something about them or not – well, that’s your call.

Ever since I started running, my friends encouraged me to participate in competitions. Exactly two years ago, on 9th of April 2016, I did precisely that. Just a 5k run across one of the largest local parks. How hard could it be?

That depends. Read more

According to at least a few of wacky internet calendars, last Sunday was World’s Procrastination Day. It’s obvious then, why I put off publishing this article till this morning. I’m actually surprised I didn’t wait until tomorrow.

Jokes aside, the costs of unbreakable wall blocking many of us from achieving a bit more are extremely high. Especially given we know that one day we’re going to have to climb it. And, ourselves, we add brick after brick, inevitably making sure the voyage uphill will be as costly as possible.

Just because we’re not prepared.

Because it’s so hard.

Because there’s a price to be paid.

Basically, because we decide to stay in safety of our comfort zones.

On the other hand, there’s whole slow movement, noticing the fact that at work and in our private lives, we put enormous pressure on ourselves to focus on things of little importance. With all the good intentions, it’s so easy to misunderstand the whole idea and use it as yet another excuse to wait a bit longer.

And, as we wait, the price relentlessly rises.

While I’d love to go and brag about my spectacular successes on this field, I can’t. There are areas of my life, which I decide to just sit through. Wait a bit longer.

So that I can be better prepared.

So that it is easier.

So that I can afford to pay the price.

Basically, so that I can stay in whatever’s left of my comfort zone.

There are some honest conversations that I put off. My taxes are always paid on the final due date (or so…). I take the elevator home, when I’m back from workout. I do all that despite living the lifestyle that many active duty soldiers would declare harsh.

It would be good to do something about it, then. And the strategies are countless. If you try googling it, you’ll be overwhelmed with plethora of options. Which, inevitably, leads all of us – including me – into the abyss of analysis paralysis, hence we make the cheapest of choices – we vote to do nothing.

Then, it doesn’t have to be that hard.

On Sunday, I had a pretty rough running workout, preparing for half-marathon in two weeks. It went bad, to say the least. I wasn’t dressed accordingly to arctic weather. Running (sic!) late, I neither stretched, nor warmed up properly. My nutrition choices of the day were foolish. All combined, I achieved truly pathetic results and returned home exhausted.

And this is what I saw:

The easy way of the elevator to the left. The smart choice of cooling down while burning extra few calories on the staircase to the right.

The choice was obvious.

However, as I reached out to press the button, a crazy thought wandered in my mind.

(Note: this is what happens when you run – and it’s the greatest gift I can imagine.)

Let’s just take one step. I can always walk back.

Seconds later, I stormed straight into my apartment several floors up, laughing to myself. Here’s why it worked:

I chose the smallest possible first step (which, in this case, was literally a step). Then I allowed myself to turn back if I want to. Then I decided to plough on.

That’s it. There’s no need for strategies or fancy approaches.

How to make that tiny step out of the comfort zone?

Step.

With staggering regularity, millions of people worldwide make their commitments to change their lives on that single night. This is the time when we all notice we’ve moved closer to dying and that our passing might be filled with extremely painful regret – that we failed to meet our own expectations. It’s a little surprise then, that seeing this threat we want to change something. Which is where New Year’s resolution come to an aid, an easily available solution to an important issue.

Some want to lose weight – they swarm the gyms. Others want to raise their income – they start to learn new skills. Yet others simply grasp happiness – and open to new relationships and experiences.

What happens next?

I didn’t manage to establish a precise date, but about halfway through January gyms are sparsely occupied, courses get cancelled and experiences are postponed until after I’m through with this thing at work.

And it’s the latest date that devastating majority of resolutions are put in the darkest corners of our conscience, deliberately hidden to be overlooked by any remorse. Many fail even earlier. I can bet most won’t survive the weekend.

Funnily enough, the reason we fail is our strong belief that we won’t fail. We don’t plan for failure. Which makes us perfectly insane, as famously described by Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, or Mark Twain:

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

(Neither of these remarkable gentlemen said or wrote this definition – the number of misattributed quotes on the Internet is beyond imagination.)

The fact is, we’ve failed on these plans repeatedly, over and over, until it brought us to the tipping point, to the decision to change things.

Why people suddenly decide to lose weight? Because they repeatedly and consistently failed on exercising, eating healthy, and restraining from gluttony.

Why people suddenly decide to raise their income? Because they repeatedly and consistently failed on spending smart, pushing harder, and taking calculated risks.

Why people suddenly decide to pursue happiness? Because, they repeatedly and consistently failed on understanding their needs, communicating them, and verifying whether they’re right or not.

And yet, on New Year’s Eve, we all blatantly lie to ourselves that this time it’ll be different!

NO, IT WON’T.

You kept failing for months, years, and decades. That makes a rock-solid habit. You will fail again.

Unless… Unless you plan for it. How?

Well, you already know what to do to be fat, earn pitiful wage, or be unhappy.

Look at all these times when you reached out for a bag of chips. All those days when you decided that mediocre effort is enough. All those evenings when you looked away from your own happiness.

When did it happen? How? What triggered the specific behavior you want to change? Quantify it.

Now, given you acted accordingly to your resolution, what would you do? Be specific.

Finally, plan. Put it in writing and read every day, until it carves in your mind.

It’s that simple.

And do you know what the best part is?

Every now and then, you will fail anyway. Old habits die hard. That’s ok, we’re humans, perfect in our imperfection.

Yet each of these failures will inevitably grasp your attention – wait, I didn’t want to do that!

This kind of reflection is the best way to learn. Unless you want to die young, poor, or unhappy. That’s always an option.

Every now and then, some friendly soul stumbles upon someone full of despair about some aspect of their life. Low on money, unhappy in love, with bad health – you name it. There are endless ways to be miserable. Some of these poor bastards actually attempt doing something to recover from their dire situation. That’s noble of itself, make no mistake. But quite often things just don’t work out well. They fail once. They fail twice. Then thrice. Then, if they’re still fighting, they might fail again. It is remarkably easy to give up. Don’t beat yourself if it happened to you. That’s just being human. With exception of relationships, we hate being stuck in the limbo. Then we give up and accept that we’ll never be rich, happy, or healthy. That makes us sad and miserable. Then the good soul appears and, with best intentions, shares the worst motivational advice ever. Read more

For whatever reasons, quite often wrong or misperceived, we all try to introduce some change. Be it about our own lives, our teams, or our whole organisations, we want to make things better. Rest assured, it is never easy. Change sucks, is painful, and sometimes requires unearthly amounts of willpower. And it’s when you only apply it to yourself! Thinking of your family, your team, or whatever bigger entity – you may as well start praying.

Because, at one moment or another, you will fail miserably. Read more

However mindful and careful might you be when behind the wheel, at some point you will inevitably do something dangerous. Near miss some other car when overtaking. Powering through a corner which turns out to be covered with black ice. Forcing a right of way on the intersection. Just a moment of mindlessness, unseen risk, lack of experience – each of these can be potentially disastrous. Thing is, in huge majority of cases, nothing happens. Somehow you recover, just to burst out with nervous laughter once the adrenaline rush stops. Then, inevitably and possibly subconsciously, you will draw some conclusions. You might become more careful or, oddly, start to care less. The latter one is more likely if your similar experiences from the past ended the same way, with no serious consequences. Some action is potentially deadly – but it always works out, somehow. You might start tolerating it.

And it’s not like the phenomenon is narrowed down to single people. Teams do it. Societies do it. Even large and knowledge based organizations do it. Ever heard of NASA? Read more