The Adaptive Agency Blog

How To Eliminate Failure

by | Mar 3, 2023 | Strategy

I have overcome failure.

I no longer worry about it or experience disappointment because of it.

This is not a post about having a positive attitude or avoiding risk. It’s about 3 ways of reframing everything you do so that failure becomes impossible.

Reframe 1: Set Direction Instead Of Goals

In January of 2022, I wanted to lose 15 pounds.

History told me that if I set a goal—”lose 15 pounds by the end of March”—I would either lose my motivation and quit, or I’d gain the weight back after I lost it.

Instead of setting a specific goal with a deadline, I set a direction: “I’ll end 2022 much healthier than I started it.”

To begin, I made some small changes to my diet, exercise, and sleep routine. I started stretching. And I started to feel good about the changes, keeping everything at a manageable and enjoyable level. Whenever I felt more desire, I made small improvements and increases.

By the end of 2022, I had lost 15 pounds and felt way better overall, with a lot of momentum going into 2023. I didn’t just “not fail”, I actually succeeded more than if I had set a specific goal with a deadline.

Reframe 2: Lengthen Your Timelines.

One major contributor to failure is having short timelines. Here’s why:

Learning and growth often follow a zigzag pattern that trends upward. There are highs and lows along the way, but the overall trajectory is positive.

For example, if you’re learning to juggle, you’ll likely drop many tennis balls before you get better. There will be times when you do better and times when you backslide. But if you keep going, you’ll improve on average until you become a good juggler.

Now imagine if you shorten the timeline to just a day, an hour, or a single attempt. What will you see?


But if you lengthen the timeline to a week or two, you’ll see success. It’s all a matter of perspective.

This is critical because:

  1. Most strategies unfold over long periods of time.
  2. Most strategies include tactical efforts that don’t work out.
  3. Disappointing tactical efforts are the laboratory in which we learn.

So shortening your timeline to just one tactical effort is a surefire way to “fail” and never learn what could have been.

For example, in my efforts to get healthy in 2022, I experienced many ups and downs. If I had only focused on the “downs,” I might have considered it a failure. Instead, I persevered and got great results

Consider this: when will you start thinking about next year’s business strategy? This December? Next January? What if you turn the operation over to your team in June and start thinking about how to reposition your company for growth next year?

Reframe 3: Get Your Scope Right.

I prioritized a broad scope (“getting healthy”) over a narrow one (“losing weight”), which gave me many options for incremental gains. This allowed me to enjoy the “ups” and not worry too much about the “downs.”

Here are some examples of areas where expanding your scope will give you much more room to drive long-term success:

Narrow: Increase sales.

Broad: Simplify and improve our sales and marketing processes. Analyze our channels and focus on those that work best.

Narrow: Hire an employee.

Broad: Improve our ability to attract, retain, and leverage talent.

Narrow: Hold employees accountable.

Broad: Solicit feedback from employees and receive coaching on how to better motivate or inspire them.

Narrow: Work harder.

Broad: Increase my ability to focus on deep work by reducing busyness, improving sleep, and learning to say “no” more often.

By getting your scope right, you can focus on pursuing the big picture instead of constantly dealing with minor tactical emergencies.

And there’s no more failure—only learning and progressing.