Dropping a project isn’t failing.
Making mistakes isn’t failing.
But then how do we define success without the “it’s the journey” jargon?
A troublesome comment is that we only fail when we stop trying.
While this may ring true in some sense, it does not take meaning into account.
The energy of our lives, measured in motivation and time, is limited. Deciding that we have made an error in placing eﬀorts poorly, then consciously and carefully recalibrating, is not failure.
It is learning.
We fail if we stop trying to find and develop a meaningful flow, as a union of play and work, not in completing some specific project.
If, though, we find we must repeatedly drop or change varying projects, such a process can be tremendously disheartening. Wading through the confusion of repeated incomplete visions threatens to drown us in a lack of confidence. Any potential lessons oﬀered by error are mired in feelings of futility.
A compass of meaning, however, can provide continuous direction. We break down the obstacle before us into smaller and smaller components until, finally, that smallest aspect of the obstacle may be overcome. We do it again and again, learning from our errors in presumptions, organizing and reorganizing, and gaining courage and confidence to continue moving forward. All the while, we must acknowledge that the onslaught of unrewarded attempts may very well continue.
Much of the groundwork to develop one’s art and its communication is below the radar of a community. Years and years may be spent in isolation before one matures a craft suitably, finds a receptive audience, or cultivates a good path for the communication of the work, and there is no guarantee that one ever will. Yet continued persistence is required for meaningful work to have a chance at finding a community.
For this, among other reasons, I define success as the process of bringing play into work such that the world feeds back and sustains that person in play. Failure is when we stop the continued attempts of finding and fostering the conditions for play that ultimately develops a sense of meaning. The mistake is in not adapting or learning.
Mistakes are a matter of perspective. If they are viewed as ends, then they are failures. If we are without error, it is only because we have never tried.
Every attempt to connect with the world requires adjustment. Each attempt to reach out in intention or question is a fumbling of sorts. It is not that we do not perceive error, so much as it is the grace with which we fumble, by which there are “no mistakes”. The elegance, integrity, honesty, and attempt to learn from our inevitable misalignments between vision and reality provide a continued path towards mastery.
Success is not a line crossed, but instead a flow of finding play in work, a daily weaving of meaning into our lives.
- Excerpt from Workflow Mastery: Building from the Basics