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Today's To-Do List: Fail

If you are like most business owners you exhibit what John Updike called an intensity of competence: You know your business, know your market, and know your customers.

To your employees you're always right even when you aren't. Few are brave enough or presumptuous enough to tell you otherwise.

In your business, you're the king.

Wearing the crown is a heady feeling, but kingship comes with downsides. You can lose the ability to question your decisions, your vision, and your approach to problems. Just as damaging, you can lose the ability to see your business and yourself from your employees' point of view. Your ability to run your company and lead others can be compromised when you lose perspective on what it's like to not have all the answers and to make mistakes.

So today, set out to fail.

But fail in a different way than you might think. I hate statements like, "In business, if you aren't failing you aren't trying." Great, but business failures cost time and money that most of us don't have. (Is "Failure" a line item in your operating budget?)

Instead, fail at something outside your business. Pick something simple that doesn't take long. Set a reach goal you know you can't reach. If you normally run two miles, run five. If you play a sport, play against people better than you. Whatever you pick, give it your all. Try your best. Leave no room for excuses.

In my case, I like to fail at physical activities. While I may be good at what I do for a living, when I grind up a mountain on a bike or play pickup basketball with local college guys, no one cares about that. I'm judged solely on my merits... and found wanting.

And that's a good thing. Failure isn't defeating; failure is motivating. Failure gives me a healthy dose of perspective and makes me more tolerant and patient.

It's hard to feel superior or judgmental or dismissive when you just got your butt kicked.

Go fail. Tomorrow, when you go to work, you'll be a different person. You'll still be the king -- just without the crown.

Photo courtesy flickr user aliwest44, CC 2.0

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