My Agile Life: Eat Failure, Not Your Peace Of Mind

(This column is posted at, Steve’s LinkedIn, and Steve’s Tumblr)

(My continuing “Agile Life” column, where I use Scrum for a more balanced and productive life continues).

Doing Agile in my personal life taught me how to fail. You’d think at my age I’d have plenty of practice failing, but there’s always something to learn.

Ever obsess over a problem or mistake? Of course you have. We make mistakes then play with them in our heads over and over even while we fix them, berating ourselves as we do so. Even when the mistake is fixed, the self-flagellation may continue afterwards.

This is terrible for our peace of mind. Every minute spent in worry is a minute not spent doing something else. Worry can eat up so much time that we get less done – which only makes us worry more.

In business, we’re familiar with the equivalent of this worry; blame game and paralysis through analysis. A department or group becomes so locked up by blame-flinging and over-analyzing nothing gets done. Such a department is as trapped just like person locked in an endless cycle of self-loathing. In fact, I’d say it’s pretty much the same thing

In doing Agile for my personal life as well as work, I came up with the term “Eat Your Failure.” Agile methods use failure to fuel improvement. Failure’s not just part of the process – failure powers it. Failure is actually not bad (well, not entirely).

This has helped change my attitude towards failure in a very short time, and am finding it fear of it starts to diminish. I’m far more aware of when fear of failure or annoyance with it drains my time. I’m less upset with it because I take an “eat your failure approach.” By treating failure differently, I have much more peace of mind and get more done.

(Trust me, on the novel I’m working on, that’s such a change of pace I get lots of fear of failure.)

In large organizations, this “eat your failure” mindset is as important if not moreso. If I get obsessed with failure and don’t think in Agile methods, I can slam a beer or go to therapy. In an organization, bad attitudes towards failure can become part of culture and outlast the people there (and their supplies of beer and therapy). Worry can become institutionalized.

Taking a positive or at least progressive view of Failure doesn’t just bring efficiency. It brings peace of mind.

Of course in our lives or in our jobs, we have to make sure that’s part of our culture, be it just us or an entire company. It’s up to us to make that change and encourage the change in others.

But honestly, how many people or businesses would be much happier if they just said “Let’s live with failure and improve” over obsession and guilt and denial?

Yeah, we know the answer.

(By the way I do plenty of books for coaching people to improve in various areas, which may also help you out!)

– Steve

Fear Of Failure Is A Sign Of Genius

Oh you sit there, looking over your great ideas, looking over your wonderful career plans, and you think about all the mistakes are likely to make and all the things will go wrong. Have wonderful ideas, creative ideas, wild ideas–yet, what if they fail?

You know how it goes.  You know that fear.

Well my fellow progeek, that change for failure, for true disaster, is a wonderful testimony to your genius.

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