Canadian Lawyer

December/January 2021

The most widely read magazine for Canadian lawyers

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36 www.canadianlawyermag.com FEATURE FAILURE Endure your limitations Failure hurts because it strips away. But when we're left with the bare bones of an idea, something magical can happen. We're forced to endure limitations and do more with less. It's easy to assume that more is more — more money, more support, more time — but, in reality, a sense of abun- dance can be treacherous. In The Paradox of Choice, Barr y Schwartz points out how backward our thinking is. He explains that, despite modern culture's obsession with freedom of choice, more choice equals less action: "Learning to choose is hard. Learning to choose well is harder. And learning to choose well in a world of unlimited possibilities is harder still, perhaps too hard. . . . But by restricting our options, we will be able to choose less and feel better." Having too many options is paralyzing. Instead, working with the bare minimum streamlines. It clarifies. It lets us see clearly. Limitations drive resourcefulness and fuel inspiration. Learn to see them as a blessing, not a curse. Know when to be flexible and when to persist Every successful person has had moments of self-doubt but persevered. Grit and determination — even in the face of brutal setbacks — are crucial to realizing an ambition. But equally, "never give up" is terrible advice. It's just as important to know when to pivot, adjust or bow out altogether. So how do you know when to stick with it and when to quit? Author James Clear suggests you identify your 'non-negotiable': the one thing you are not willing to budge on, no matter what. Then lose the obsession with everything apart from this. It's easy to get attached to a particular version of an idea. And if it doesn't pan out the way you'd expected or planned, you might feel tempted to give up. For instance, your non-negotiable could be running a profitable business. But there are thousands of ways to achieve this that don't follow the conventional trajectory; you just need to be open-minded. I like Jeff Bezos' mindset for Amazon: "We are stubborn on vision. We are flexible on details." So you might accept defeat on a version of your idea, but that doesn't mean you need to quit. You've just gone slightly off-script. Get up, dust yourself off and try a different version. Once you change your perspective on this, you'll be able to see mishaps as interchange- able details rather than abject failures. If you believe what you have is worth showing to the world, endurance matters. If you try once to get a ball in a hoop, it's likely not to go in. If you try a hundred times, it will. Persistence increases your odds of success. So be resolute in your non-negotiable. Stick with it. And be open to getting everything else wrong. Realize that failure delivers knowledge According to a 2016 article published in the Harvard Business Review, the main reasons companies struggle to grow is due to fear of failure; risk-averse working cultures are blamed for lack of innovation. But failure is impossible to avoid. And by identifying where things went wrong, we can extract extreme value from tricky experiences. Failure shouldn't be underestimated, but it shouldn't be feared either. Mistakes are an opportunity to adapt, learn and grow. Ed Catmull, Pixar's president, agrees. "Mistakes aren't a necessary evil. They aren't evil at all. They are an inevitable consequence of doing something new . . . and should be seen as valuable." Track and measure projects from the beginning. If things don't work out, you' ll have a clear indicator as to why. Crystallize these insights. Look for patterns. Develop a formula to follow next time around. Reflect on the positives, too. Ask for feedback and share your thoughts. There's so much to be learned about ourselves and others if we can push past the discomfort of examining our failures. Worst- case scenario, we make sure it doesn't happen again. Best-case scenario, we gain knowledge we can apply to other areas of our life. It takes guts to stick with a venture through thick and thin. But it takes just as much courage, if not more, to know when to duck out, conduct a post-mortem and move on. We shouldn't glorify failure. But we should celebrate the resilience it takes to bounce back. Growth occurs alongside discom- fort. Boredom and frustration are the foun- dations of incremental improvement. And, sometimes, you need to go back to move forward. In other words, what feels like failure is often success in disguise. Failure shouldn't be underestimated, but it shouldn't be feared, either. Because mistakes are an opportunity to adapt, learn and grow Aytekin Tank is the founder and CEO of JotForm, an online form creation software with four million users worldwide and more than 100 employees. A developer by trade but writer by heart, Tank shares stories about how he exponentially grew his company without receiving any outside funding. For more information, visit jotform.com. 5 4 6

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