Browsing the archives for the safety tag.
Subscribe via RSS or e-mail      


Stay the Course or Try Something New and Promising? Some Ways to Decide

Strategies and goals

A friend recently mentioned that she was having trouble deciding whether to stay with a project she’d been working on for some time or to follow a new, very unusual idea she’d come up with that could, she thinks, be highly successful. While she’s been enthusiastic about the new idea, it isn’t catching on with the people she’s talked to about it so far.

There is no simple way, much of the time, to make these kinds of decisions. Some of us are constantly seduced by new and exciting ideas–for me, for instance, it’s an unusual week when I don’t dream up some huge project I could be doing instead of what I have on my plate already. I’m glad to say I usually write these down and stay the course, since if I followed every one I’d never finish anything at all.

Others of us have no inclination to rock the boat and want to stay with what we have–sometimes even when that’s showing every sign of failing.

So how can we make good decisions about choices when we can’t predict the outcomes? Here are some suggestions for ways to do that.

Sometimes audacity is brilliant
First, it seems to me that doing things that other people say will never work sometimes works amazingly, as with J.K. Rowling’s much-too-long debut young adult novel or Beethoven’s opening to his 5th symphony, which starts on the second beat.

Innovators have to be able to hold the line
Second, even when an audacious idea is successful, its creator often has to perservere well beyond the usual point of success to get anywhere. Rowling was rejected by a couple of dozen publishers before Bloomsbury picked her up, and the great majority of writers would probably never have persisted that long. I gather that some of the initial reaction to Beethoven’s 5th symphony was disbelief and scorn, though some of that may have been because the premiere went very badly.

Failure is normal
Third, most ideas that other people say will never work really do never work, just because it’s hard to make a big, new thing come to life in an effective way. Audacious surprise successes are very unusual.

How committed can you be?
Fourth, the audacious ideas that do succeed seem to do so only when their creator is completely behind the idea, heart and soul. I can reflect on a variety of businesses I’ve worked on the past that have begun promisingly but ultimately died with a whimper because I didn’t want pour my entire life into them. Some were very sound, and one of the businesses did hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of business before it petered out, but when it comes down to it, business isn’t what interests me, so that these days I avoid getting involved in business pursuits whenever I can even though I’ve gained a lot of good experience in that area.

Follow happiness
Some advice that’s very good in other situations, like “follow your passions” or “just do it!” can fail us when we’re working on complicated decisions. One suggestion I’ve heard is “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?” This kind of advice has led uncounted young people to Hollywood to try to become stars, for instance, and the huge majority of them wash out completely. Does that make it a bad decision? It depends. Maybe the thing to do is to choose the course that will make you happy even if you fail, just because you tried and you put everything you had into it. With that approach, even failure can be a form of success.

Photo by brockzilla

No Comments


%d bloggers like this: