Thousands of years ago some very wise people wrote very inspiring wisdom that can benefit those who strive to achieve at any venture, regardless what that venture is.

In the book of wisdom titled, Bhagavad Gita, from India, there is an expression you might wish to keep in mind: “The lesson comes AFTER the experience”. In Westernized countries you may have heard the same bit of wisdom expressed as, “Try. Try. Again”, or as “If you fall…get up.”

Regardless of which bit of wisdom you choose to use to motivate yourself, it amounts to running in circles if you don’t know the ROOT CAUSE of each failure. Only if you know the root cause can you take corrective action that lets you learn from the experience, or lets you try again, or lets you get up when down. So, let’s check out the causes of failure.

I present those causes in circle format. Those of you who know music theory will see the slight pun. In music there is the theory of the “Circle of Fifths”. Here, I present the “Circle of Fails”:

The highest percentage of failed outcomes can be relegated to FEAR of failure, or FEAR of actually succeeding. Careless thinking can account for all the other causes of failure.
  • AVOIDANCE: Trying to avoid all, or any, failed outcomes or criticisms. Another way to say this is to strive for perfection. Perfection is not required. But progress is. Check your thinking and designs. Are you designing methods or allocating resources to head off any, and all, negative outcomes that might be imagined, yet, of extremely low probability? It makes more sense to tackle FORESEEABLE negative outcomes of a higher probability.
  • DRIFT: This is similar to being distracted by paying attention to details or outcomes that are next to meaningless. Or, being more interested in some other project or activity. Instead of intensely focusing your energy, or that of your team members, you or they are distracted by time wasters, meaningless activities, or lack of motivation for the task at hand.
  • MOTION: You will hear often of colleagues claiming, “I did all I could”. Going through the motions is not the objective and it is not the reward. If I wish to move myself from point A to point B but, for a long list of reasons, I run in circles around point A, I don’t ever reach point B. Outcomes matter, never the actions, motions, or effort. Dump the ineffective motions and increase the number of effective motions. My favourite example from my experience running a division was the work of a very intelligent MBA who did everything but the one thing that would move a major project forward.
  • ALIGNMENTS: Check your resourcing. Are you buying the right components? Is the team properly aligned? Is the spirit of each team member focused on the project? Is YOUR spirit focused on the project? Another way to say this, is to check each resource to ensure there is no halfheartedness or incompatibilities.
  • DETAIL: Too much detail, too many activities, too many goals, will overwhelm and result in inefficiencies and wastage. Too little detail will result in confusion, misalignment, misdirection. Ensure there is a good balance of detail and that the details are of the most important tasks and sub-tasks.
  • CROWDING: Is the list too long? Are you piling on too much? If the team can handle only two major projects, you are ensuring failures if you insist on five major projects.
  • CONFIDENCE: This is similar to halfheartedness. You might as well avoid the assignment or task if you are going to approach it reluctantly or with paralysing fear. On the other hand, if you are overconfident you can unwittingly tip toe across an important “red line” and enter into that dangerous territory known as MANAGEMENT EGO. [Use the search field above to read a ton of info on dangers of Managerial Ego.] Be confident but don’t let your confidence make you stupid.
  • FEAR FAILURE: Is this a demonstration of that immutable universal law of “Attraction”: you attract that which you focus upon”? Possibly. But let’s not get too esoteric. The reality is, by accommodating fear of losing, of failing, you crowd out of your creative mind the space it requires to accommodate ideas that can enhance the probabilities of achieving positive outcomes. You become the “deer in the headlights”. Expect to fail. Learn to welcome failure as part of the Gita learning experiences: use your failures to learn what does not work to move you one step closer to what works. Put this thought in your back pocket: Samurai warriors are taught to NOT fear death and that the fraction of a second that their spirit breaks, that their mind wanders to worry about death, they do get killed when in battle.
  • FEAR SUCCESS: This is not a fear that is often pointed out in literature, but it is as real a cause as is fear of failure. You may be one who does not want to receive awards or give speeches or have to train large groups of employees, or appear on TV, or have to then write lengthy patent applications, etc. Even if this fear is buried in your subconscious mind it may slow or derail the task or project.
  • VISIONS: The most important point of any project or goal is to have a successful vision. Tesla is said to have had some sort of cosmic connection with the Akashic Records, (Cosmic Library). He’d have these extremely powerful, detailed visions, transfer them to paper and then invent that which he “saw”. Use this as your guide. If you can’t clearly see the end point, the successful outcome and what it can do or how it will be used, then your vision is too weak. Strengthen it. On the other hand, if you have a powerful vision, but it is unrealistic, you will miss your target. In a nutshell, ensure your vision is powerful, effective, realistic, and reachable…yet watch out for managerial ego.
  • INSUFFICIENCY: Success has a requirement, a price. Certain tasks are also necessary and they must be done. Lacking or minimising or AVOIDING any of these necessities will be what causes many failures. Resources, time, effort, talent, and experience must be suitable for the task or project. If managing a team, be wary of members who choose to ride the coat tails of their colleagues, rather than making a strong contribution. Examine each of these components. Let’s take resourcing as an example. You can doom an outcome if you have too few people, too little budget, too little time…etc.
  • DIRECTION: Not only must you or the team be aligned, pointed in the right direction, but you must also carefully consider DIRECTIVES. Instructions must also be crystal clear and you need to ensure people understand them. So, not only outward communication, but also inward communications and what I will call, “cross-communications”, [where cross-communications refers to the communications taking place withing the team members while working on the tasks.] Sorecards may be necessary to reveal feedback, progress, what is working and what is not working. But don’t let too much bureaucracy creep in. Other times, you may achieve the validation you need by simply walking around, or having brief progress meetings.
  • DEFINITIONS: Words are important. Carefully define everything about the task or project. Leave no stone unturned when it comes to understanding the goal, objective, outcomes desired, steps along the way, terminology, etc. The military developed military-speak for efficiency on the battlefield. Corporations, likewise, develop corporate-speak unique to each corporation because of history, culture, personalities in management, etc. But what about newbies on your team? Do they get all the jargon? Just be sure when you or your boss says, “apple”, everyone involved understands “apple”.
  • SAMENESS: History often repeats itself, so to say. But don’t let whatever caused your past failures repeat, or hold you back, during this task or project. Also, just because you failed in the past, don’t assume those same factors, or your past failures will be at work in this task or project. Be on guard for the halo influence coming from your past failures.
  • OBJECTIVES: Do you know what those objectives are? Are they clear. Achievable? etc.