Success: The Forgotten Failure Contingency

A Critical Doer controls what is theirs to control 

One of my favorite episodes of The Big Bang Theory involves the character Penny starting a web-based home business selling decorative items.  Uncharacteristically, Penny thought through a number of contingencies except one…success.  When Penny launched the web site, she was flooded with more orders than she could possibly fill.  Thanks to caffeine and her friend group, they got the orders filled but the business failed because Penny was not prepared to succeed.

Whether it’s a new job, project, or business, we instinctively plan to deal with things that could go wrong.  You’d be surprised how many efforts ultimately fail because there wasn’t a plan to deal with success.  Here are a few things you should consider in planning to prevent success from causing failure.

  1. Willingness to relocate. Your efforts to move up the company ladder are paying off and you’re a real game changer for your company.  In fact you’re so good the company needs you to keep moving up and be a game changer in another location.  Your family is happy where you are, you love your house, and the thought of moving is giving you an ulcer and it’s made even worse because going back to your old job is no longer an option.  Thinking through the next steps before taking the first step and including all who are affected in the discussion can prevent undue turbulence at the personal level.
  2. Demands on time. Anyone who believes the demands on your time decrease as your career progresses is just plain mistaken.  Anyone who believes the demands on your time from your family decrease as your children get older is just plain mistaken.  A thoughtful discussion and planning to ensure you succeed on the job while remaining centered on the people who matter most can prevent success from causing a set of unintended negative consequences.
  3. Product obsolescence. Whether it’s a physical product or a service, it’s rare that a product goes unchanged and stands the test of time.  You must view success as a journey rather than a destination to mentally commit to continuous improvement. Smart operators will use the fruits of success to invest in the next product or improvement of the product to keep competitors reactive and maintain dominance in the market place.  If you’re an employee, this is also applicable to your own skills so that you’re competitive in the market place as new skills come in demand.
  4. Capacity.  Roughly 80 percent of capacity is a strategic inflection point whether you’re dealing with seating capacity in a restaurant or capacity of employees to produce a product.  If you wait until 80 percent to start planning, you’ll be max’d out before you can implement a plan to address capacity.  A business will appear to be crowded and they may look for an alternative; employees may become overwhelmed and look for an alternative.  Planning milestones with trigger points to add capacity will keep your business in a position to grow into increasing levels of success.

Take this opportunity to look at your career or business and see if you have adequately planned for what could go wrong if you succeed.  Remember our Critical Doer creed which states the only future we have is the one we’re willing to make for ourselves.  The four considerations I’ve given you can guide your thinking and doing in order to succeed today and build your own capacity for even greater levels of success in the future.  It’s what a Critical Doer would…do!


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Updated: April 29, 2015 — 9:51 am