Everything that you do, personally or professionally, will fall into one of four buckets: Slow Success, Fast Success, Slow Failure, or Fast Failure. (Spoiler alert: if you do nothing else, avoid Slow Failure as much as possible).
" There are no shortcuts to any place worth going." - Beverly Sills
You do not and cannot plan for Fast Success. If you do, you will not achieve it. It's foolish to assume it will happen because 99.99 percent of the time, it doesn't (and won't). On the exceedingly rare occasion it does, you're an outlier, a lottery winner, you were struck by lightning and this post isn't meant for you (congratulations!). Think Instagram, which Facebook snapped up for a cool $1B a mere 19 months after it started and YouTube, which saw its first video go up in April of 2005 and then - 19 months later - pulled in $1.65B in its sale to Google.
"Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing." - Denis Waitley
Anything substantive and worth having professionally typically comes after lots and lots of failures, both large and small. Fast failure is a perfectly reasonable and normal outcome of effort. Call it the growing pains of professional success, where the real learning takes place. In fact, you could take it one step further and look at fast failure as success. Failing quickly - whether it's a relationship, an experiment, a role, a company or a product idea - is ultimately a blessing. You're killing it at understanding what will not work - and consequently, you'll be more attuned to what success really looks like.
"Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did." - Newt Gingrich
Almost anything worth doing is in this category. You work hard over an extended period of time and make steady progress against whatever the particular goal is that you are trying to achieve. Each day you're slightly better than the last and the sum of your incremental gains becomes something great, something you can call a success. Like the tortoise in the fable, slow and steady will win out: the general trend will be measured, consistent, and up and to the right.
Uber and Facebook are classic examples of slow success, though they're often mistaken as meteoric in their respective rises. Yes, in the world of multi-billion dollar companies, both achieved incredibly high value relatively early on. But it wasn't overnight and both had years of fast failures to find the right fit before becoming the large and successful companies they are today.
"Stagnation is a slow death." - Ellen Hopkins
Slow failure happens when we're scared to face the truth because doing so will force us to make a move. If you've been complaining about your boss or job for years, nothing's going to change. If you've been waiting for that friend in your life to finally start treating you with the respect you deserve, it's unlikely to happen. Time is your most precious commodity. Cut your losses now. Don't get caught in the trap of slow failure.
You'll find one of two things will happen. You'll either make a change (pivot, build a new product, hire a new person) and the anticipated outcome will change. Or you'll call it a day and take another path that will likely lead to slow success.
Ultimately, fail fast and succeed slow but be brave enough to reject slow failure at all costs. This is really, at its core, about your life - the only one you have - and it's damn short. Take heart, take courage and inspiration from those whose paths you admire - and don't be deterred by fast failure. Learn, adjust and win.
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