Ask beyond failure or success

Struggle Leads to Success

What happens when you fail at something? other that feeling bad you may want to retrospectively look at why you failed.

Let say you got in to the crypto-currency groove and you decide to buy 100 dollars in bitcoin, expecting a big outcome. One week later you find out not only that you lost your 100 dollars but now you owe 50 dollars more, yikes.

So you think through your action and outcome and tell yourself, “What did I expect, bitcoin fluctuates each day, even each hour, surely I was going to loose money”  and you leave it at that.

The same thing happens at home maybe you come back from work a bit stressed out and you decide to point out that their is a mess in the kitchen, instead of saying hello and asking how her day went. Sure enough she gets stressed due the remark and then you bark something you did not mean and the cycle of back and forth begins.

Action: I invested Outcome: I lost money, end of game

Action: I criticized, Outcome: I got in to a fight with my wife.

At first glance we say ok I will not do these things again, don’t invest and don’t bother your wife when you are stressed.

But the real learning come from going deeper 

Why did I decide to invest in crypto? what motivated me to invest? why did it think I was going to double my money in a week? why do I need to double my money? Why double?


Why did I tell my wife about the dishes? Why did I feel I needed to criticize? Why did your boss criticize you at work? Why are you taking things personal?

You have to go deeper than just one questions to find the root cause. In engineering I have applied this principle as the “5 why’s” principle and I have also heard it called as system thinking.

I was hearing an interview between Tim Ferris  and Safi Bahcall in which he describes this process as system thinking.

He writes:

Garry Kasparov was the world chess champion for fifteen years, the longest record in the history of the game. He described the key to his success as something we might call system mindset.

Analyzing why a move is bad—why pawn-takes-bishop, for example, lost the game—is an example of what we might call outcome mindset. It’s analyzing the outcome.

A higher level of strategy, for any team or company or even individual decision-making—something that’s helped me a lot—is to analyze the decision process behind a move: why you decided on that move, in that moment, in that context, and what that means for how you should change your decision-making in the future. That’s system mindset.

System thinking is very common in engineering but what he describes is applying system thinking to your every day life.

He also mentions that you should not only apply this method to your failures but also to your successes, in many cases luck could have been the reason why you won that job from the other vendor, but if you never take a deep dive in to the process you thought won the job then you will never know what gave you the success, was it luck or was it your doing.

So ask, ask, ask, ask, and ask one more time when you fail and when you win.


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