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The Messy Truth of Success

Last week, we were in a working session, talking about success and failure and how we were a little tired of the constant stream of stories that talked about a single failure and how it led to massive success. While we understand that clicks and engagement can drive how we frame stories, we also started to share our stories of failure and success and how we really live in the middle of the two. Our experience has looked less like an arrow straight from failure to success and more like a squiggly mess of lines that go through success and failure over and over again.

So, what is the messy truth of success? It is our goal to share the experiences we have in an honest and authentic way so that we don't have the filtered results of success, but the messy reality of it. It is the part of the story that often does not make the Instagram post or get the most clicks because, for so many of us, we want to see what's possible and get to the end result but hope that someone else is going to tell us how we get to skip over the messy truth.

We are going to burst the bubble of failure creates success in one motion and start talking about how they are intertwined, and that you can be experiencing successes while you are still failing too. We would also argue that the most successful people have figured out how to allow the two to coexist, instead of seeing them as opposites.

This really struck home for us as we were working on our business strategy and leaning pretty heavily on the theory that we've had a few failures, so success had to be right around the corner, as though each failure was a brick in the path that ended with success. What happens when we get trapped in that thought line is that we continue to see the failures and completely miss the successes we are having. The viewpoint that failure leads to success pushes us to and either/or mindset, instead of an and mindset. If you are visual (like we are!), then this is how we see it:

This week, we hit pause and decided to pivot our thinking from this straight line model of "either/or" and embrace the messy and productive model of "and", which had us dive into our goals and show up in ways that we had been holding back on, mostly out of fear and uncertainty. We reminded ourselves that failure and success are not opposites, so we can stop counting failures as though there is a magic number that equals success.

And, we see this play out for us in our corporate roles, in recognizing the results of teams, while still addressing failures and how that accountability and leadership creates better results. It supports trying new strategies and having alignment on the team about how we assess them and determine if they continue or if we move in a different direction.

Finding sustained success requires us to talk candidly and openly about where failure is happening so we can create spaces where it is not just allowed, it is also encouraged. Shifting how we see both failure and success and what we define as success has the potential to create even more space to fail and find success, and we think that starts with talking about the messy truth of it all. So, what is one thing that you would say is part of your messy truth?

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