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Success is not guaranteed

Improving Systems and Habits

Scott Miker is the author of several books that describe how to use systems and habits to improve.  This free blog provides articles that to help understand the principles related to building systems.  

Success is not guaranteed

Scott Miker

Life is always going to have an element of unpredictability to it. No matter what we think should happen, fate always intervenes and adjusts the future reality.

One of the things I enjoy about this time of year is the start of the American football season. I have a few teams that I enjoy watching and even tend to enjoy watching games with teams that I have no real interest in.

One aspect that I enjoy is the unpredictability. Going into the season all the critics give their opinion of what will transpire. They claim they know the players who will win the most awards, the teams that will win championships and the coaches who will lose their jobs at the end of the season.

They often get into heated debates with each other. Sometimes they all seem to agree but more often than not, they disagree. Then they use facts and past examples to highlight why they are right.

But none of this really matters. What matters is how the games are played. This means that as the season takes shape, it gets more and more interesting. We learn new things about the players, coaches and teams.

We see some teams play above what was expected. We see other teams underperform.

But these results aren’t the result of just some randomness. The teams are all working to succeed. Sometimes they have players that don’t understand the true value of hard work. Sometimes they have injuries that are outside of their control.

To me, it becomes a great example of how success is never guaranteed. In Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney the authors say, “Success is conditional – but it’s within your reach as long as you have the discipline to try, try again.”

I love that quote. Success is uncertain but the key to being successful is to have the discipline to keep working towards your goals.

Life is similar to football. Nobody knows exactly how everything will end up. We all have opinions but it isn’t until we get to work that we start to shape our future and help or hurt our chances of success.

But one aspect of football that is different than life is the fact that they play a season, take a break, then another season, then another break etc.

This gives time to reflect and get back up. It is easier to try, try again when there is a clear start and finish. But in life, we don’t have those clear start and end points. We just keep going forward.

Yes there are seasons and in some occupations that is similar to the seasons for sports (such as teaching) but most occupations just move along, day after day after day.

Therefore it is helpful to pause during our journey to stop and recalibrate. We could gain a lot from rethinking what we did. Then we can try something different where necessary.

Success is anything but guaranteed. But there are things that you can do to improve your odds of being successful. Learn to keep trying and try to add in times of reflection to help learn from what happened to fine-tune your decision-making going forward.