Failure Mode

This note is copied from my newsletter:

How to stop making the same mistakes

I have plenty of projects and finished few.

Although I now I understand that dropping a project is part of the process, I don’t like quitting projects.

One of the ideas that has helped me the most is to focus on what went wrong instead of thinking “why this time it will work”.

There is a concept in the engineering world called “Failure Mode“. When different materials break and lose their desired properties, they break in specific ways. For example: some types of steel first flex then bend, others don’t flex and will shatter before bending. If you know this, you know what sort of steel you need to use to build suspension springs, for instance.

It is important to understand how something stops working as this helps us plan how to deal with a potential problem.

I have noticed that in my projects too, when they fail, it is usually due to the same type of factors. This is valuable information.

All of this has happened to me

  1. I think of an interesting idea and in the enthusiasm of the creative moment, I increase the complexity, layering up concepts and cool ideas. Eventually I get fed up thinking about the subject and abandon it.
    This is Ego.
  2. With a good idea in hand, I think I need to do an excellent job. I don’t want to waste a good idea with lousy execution. So I start thinking of names, logos, web domains, etc. Over time, I create a whole project infrastructure, but I lost interest in the project before executing it.
    This is Fear.
  3. I observe an opportunity in the market (I once thought of making an illustrated guide to accounting. I hate accounting) and I begin to think of a project to address it. I have neither real interest nor proximity to the subject. Everything takes time and I force myself to study the theme before spouting BS. Because the subject does not really captivate me, after a short time I abandon it.
    This is Greed.

4 guidelines I try to follow as much as possible

  • it is dangerous for me to fall in love with my ideas
  • it is more important to launch something than to try to package the project
  • I need to focus on things that really interest me
  • my attitude should be one of focus and curiosity, not vanity

You can already tell my meta-project of launching 12 Products in 12 Months is an answer to these failure modes.

The tight deadlines force me to walk faster and procrastinate less. The fact that there are 12 things also makes them less important.

Admitting my mistakes and failures is also a way for me to feel freer and execute faster. And of course, people connect through vulnerability.

I know I’m not the only one with these challenges.


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