Project Reality Check #19: Focus on Success

by Gary Monti on April 26, 2011

As different as they appear to be Success and Failure can have a lot in common! They both can bring about a fair degree of misery unless a proper focus is maintained. That focus comprises a subtle but important distinction. Let’s explore.

Plan Without Consequence

The trick with success is to plan without consequence. It sounds paradoxical so some explanation may help. The idea is to avoid getting attached to the success. Or said another way:

“Attach to success to the same extent you would attach to failure.”

Now what does that mean? Simple. It means if someone chooses to define himself solely in terms of what happens to him then he should prepare for a life of misery. If he has lots of money, fame, or what ever else he craves then he thinks he is good. If he loses what he craves he thinks he is bad. It is similar to how some people view disease, i.e., if they get it, they must be bad and God is punishing them. “Plan Without Consequence” means strive to achieve by remembering:

“I am more than what life does to me.”

Looking at it from another direction can help. “I was successful” and “My plan was successful” are two very different statements. With the former statement there is the risk of identifying with my project plan and losing my personal boundary. With the latter statement detachment is present which brings something very powerful to the table. It is the ability to maintain options. It is this capability that makes for a high-quality project manager. This subtle difference can be seen when contrasting two words easily confused.

Awareness vs. Vigilance

What I am trying to say is expressed in a more entertaining manner in the book, Who Moved My Cheese. The book fundamentally gets down to the distinction between two words, awareness and vigilance. With awareness one simply looks at life as it is and makes decisions. “No more cheese here. Okay, I’ll move on and search somewhere else.”

“No more cheese here!!! Who moved my cheese?!” is more in line with vigilance. It’s the attachment mentioned above. It’s the poison of expectations. Expectations that confuse getting something good with being intrinsically good and deserving of more.

With vigilance misery results since there is an attempt to force life to conform to expectations. With awareness freedom is present; the freedom to choose other options and move on to different forms of success. Last time I checked, that freedom and the ability to explore options is at the heart of project management, i.e., a temporary endeavor providing a unique product or service.

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