I did the best I could.
I tried my hardest.
I gave it everything I had.
Three statements that we are likely to use to try to convince ourselves that the reason we failed was outside of our control.
I know that I have done it. I have done it when failing to land a client, or when a relationship goes bust. I have said it when a race didn’t go quite as planned, or when my grandiose projects don’t work out.
The fact is that every time I sit down and analyze the situation it turns out that I usually didn’t give it all that I had.
I could have researched more. I could have trained more regularly and consistently. I could have been a better listener and talked a lot less. There are always things that I could have done to improve my odds of success.
We let ourselves off the hook sometimes by trying to convince the world that we gave it all we had and it just didn’t work out. All this serves to do is to give another built-in excuse. It wasn’t my fault, the world just conspired against me.
The correct thing to do is to sit down and analyze everything that led to where things ended up and pinpoint the areas where things were a little slack and correct our mistakes or deficiencies for next time.
SpaceX has tried time and time again to land a rocket on a ship and failed. They didn’t say well, we did the best we could but it wasn’t to be. They went back over and over and performed simulations and calculations that are about as far over my head as the rockets they are launching, and they got it right.
Even with success they won’t be resting on their laurels. They will go over every success in order to make certain of even more success the in the future.
We can do the same thing. If we land that client, we can make our pitch even better for next time and guarantee more success. If we run a race and improve our half-marathon time by 3 minutes, we can analyze and figure out what worked, what didn’t, and try to improve by another 3 minutes.
It is through acknowledging our shortcomings and improving every day that we can take our failures and turn them around. We get nowhere by telling ourselves that we “did the best we could”. We improve by deep self-examination and by finding where mistakes were made and then eliminating them.
Nobody expects perfect preparation and execution at everything that we do. It isn’t feasible. What we can do is learn how to analyze our results and make incremental improvements for next time. This is how progress is made and setbacks are turned into victories.