How Many Failures Are You Willing To Endure?

by Brad Isaac on July 29, 2007

It started out as a simple task. Build a software installer to deploy my new version of Achieve-IT! goal software for desktop, Pocket PC as well as the WiFi and ActiveSync components. Everything is working great, except for the installer.

It is a complex project. The entire installer hinges on 11 separate programs playing nicely together. Like tumbling dominoes, each program has to sequentially build so the next one’s dependencies are built and so on.

I elicited help from my friend Sasha and he is about as baffled as I am.
It installs everything, but it seems to unregister a .dll on the Pocket PC side – this wrangling is what developers commonly call “.dll hell.” The .dll in question is a critical component creates the program’s database connection. With no database connection, there is no Pocket PC application and the sync becomes a needless application.

Software development has taught me know how Edison must have felt. Like Edison responded when asked if he would give up after ‘failing’ 700 times to create the filament for the light bulb… He responded that he did not fail, but instead discovered 700 ways that didn’t work. For me, each failed build brings me closer.

So I would ask, how many failures are you willing to endure before you decide it can’t be done?

I’ll tell you when I’ll stop. When it’s done.

I may not break through today, tomorrow or the next, but it will happen; one way or another. I hope it won’t take me 700 tries. But if it does then that means I’ve done something very few people can do.

Ultimately, creating something new – be it a new invention or a new life – is always going to be fraught with setbacks and delays. It’s part of the process. So there is no need to fight it. Setbacks are where everyone else quits.

But you and I can’t quit during these challenges. Persistence is what makes you and me different than others. Climbing to the other side of the mountain even though people say it’s “impossible” or “can’t be done” has got to be our specialty.

Experts told me from nearly day 1 that my project was impossible. They said things like “Nobody takes goal setting seriously.” “You’ll never make enough money to survive.”

Developers with 10 years experience over me thought it unlikely – maybe even impossible for this project to come together without shelling out 10′s of thousands of dollars for a team of developers.

Fact is, I got help with some parts. I am not an interface guy. And I needed some assistance fixing the sync components and other odds and ends. But I don’t have a team working for me and I haven’t spent $10,000 or even $2,000 over the years.

Recently, an upper level management type implied that I somehow bought the Achieve-IT! software and re-branded it. “It’s just not very realistic that you could do something this big without a team.”

Oh really? I have to say that I am still curious how someone could look with their own eyes at an existing product that someone built and still say “it’s not realistic you did this.”

I guess the point of me writing this is to say one failure is ok, 100 failures is a whole lot better. If you don’t fail and fail a lot you probably aren’t stretching yourself. You aren’t creating, inventing or designing extraordinary results. Failing, and adjusting your actions and failing again is how success happens.

Staying in the safe zone (i.e. where failure never happens) ensures you won’t be criticized, but you’ll probably never impress either. And I’m not just talking about other people. Don’t you want to impress yourself? Don’t you want to stand at the top of the mountain and take it all in?

If so, you have to be willing to endure failure and the people who won’t shut up about it. These obstacles will be there. We’ve known this all along. But the obstacles make us better, more accomplished and eventually more successful.

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July 30, 2007 at 4:11 am

Reading your post, “Learn to pick your battles,” came to mind. Sounds like you have picked yours and I wish you the best of outcomes (we attribute much success to “luck” when we have obviously worked so hard.)

Great point about stretching yourself. So much of our potential is unrealized because we refuse to think that we can “go big.”

B. Riley July 30, 2007 at 8:21 am

It is refreshing to read this on a blog with the URL “Persistenceunlimited”.

Way to hang in there Brad! Can’t wait to try the new product!

July 30, 2007 at 2:25 pm

With that unlimited persistence, of course you’ll finish it and have it working perfectly, no matter how many tries or hours it takes.

And someone should tell that upper-level management type that sometimes we make more sense when we keep out mouths shut.

I’ve only lurked here before, but now you’ve gotten my curiosity up and this might have to be a regular stop.

July 30, 2007 at 9:42 pm

Great post. If only we have the same persistence as Edison’s, our lives will surely have a different path, a path which leads to sure success.

Brad Isaac August 1, 2007 at 12:03 am

Thanks all for your comments and support. I think I’ve got it working now. Now for some internal testing. If all goes well I’ll post a public beta this week. :)

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