The reason of failure in life and work (and how to fix them). One of the hardest things in life is to know when to keep going and when to move on.
On the one hand, perseverance and grit are key to achieving success in any field. Anyone who masters their craft will face moments of doubt and somehow find the inner resolve to keep going. If you want to build a successful business or create a great marriage or learn a new skill then “sticking with it” is perhaps the most critical trait to possess.
On the other hand, telling someone to never give up is terrible advice. Successful people give up all the time. If something is not working, smart people don’t repeat it endlessly. They revise. They adjust. They pivot. They quit. As the saying goes, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
Life requires both strategies. Sometimes you need to display unwavering confidence and double down on your efforts. Sometimes you need to abandon the things that aren’t working and try something new. The key question is: how do you know when to give up and when to stick with it?
One way to answer this question is to use a framework I call the 3 Stages of Failure.
The 3 Stages of Failure
This framework helps clarify things by breaking down challenges into three stages of failure:
Stage 1 is a Failure of Tactics. These are HOW mistakes. They occur when you fail to build robust systems, forget to measure carefully and get lazy with the details. A Failure of Tactics is a failure to execute on a good plan and a clear vision.
Stage 2 is a Failure of Strategy. These are WHAT mistakes. They occur when you follow a strategy that fails to deliver the results you want. You can know why you do the things you do and you can know how to do the work, but still, choose the wrong what to make it happen.
Stage 3 is a Failure of Vision. These are WHY mistakes. They occur when you don’t set a clear direction for yourself, follow a vision that doesn’t fulfill you, or otherwise fail to understand why you do the things you do.
Stage 4 is a Failures of Opportunity. These are WHO mistakes. They occur when society fails to provide equal opportunity for all people. Failures of Opportunity are the result of many complex factors: age, race, gender, income, education, and more.
For example, there are thousands of men my age living in the slums of India or the streets of Bangladesh who are more intelligent and more talented than I am, but we live very different lives largely because of the opportunities presented to us.
Failures of Opportunity deserve an article of their own and there are many things we can do as individuals and as a society to reduce them. However, I chose not to focus on them here because Failures of Opportunity are difficult to influence. Meanwhile, your vision, your strategy, and your tactics are all things you can directly control.